By Eli Keel for Insider Louisville
The inaugural “Pride at the Museum” fundraiser will light up the Speed Art Museum on Friday, Nov. 9, as a cadre of Louisville’s finest artists and performers come together to support the University of Louisville’s LGBT Center.
UofL is one of 25 universities named “Best of the Best” in 2017 by Campus Pride, due in large part to the LGBT Center’s work.
Brian Buford, director of UofL’s LGBT services, spoke with Insider Louisville about the fundraiser and about the kind of help the center offers.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that UofL had some very difficult budget years the last several years … (the center) has lost funding, we’ve lost staff,” says Buford.
He pulled together a group of community friends and supporters, people who love the center, and he asked them to help work on a strategy for funding the center’s work.
“So often I hear people say: ‘This is what I wish I’d had when I was coming out as a college student. I didn’t know who to talk to, I didn’t know where to go.’ ”
One of the group’s key ideas for the funding strategy was the creation of a high-profile fundraiser that could bring the community together and make sure that the center can continue to do its work.
Throwing a great fundraiser started with finding the right venue.
“Our dream was to have it at the Speed,” says Buford. “We’ve had a great partnership with them around LGBT work and really making sure the community sees the art museum as a welcoming place.”
With an art museum as a venue, the idea of focusing the event on the arts came almost immediately.
“It felt like everything just fell into place — that we would want to celebrate the arts with dance and music, that we want to take advantage of the space and give people a really great night of entertainment and networking and connection,” explains Buford.
The team at the LGBT Center and Buford’s group of community supporters started looking for artists to perform and came up with a high-profile roster.
“Karan Chavis, Teddy Abrams, of course — I think people just love seeing him — the Louisville Ballet, and All is Fair in Love and Fashion, it’s just the best of the best,” says Buford. “Each of them is, like, a night of entertainment in and of itself. It couldn’t have been a more perfect schedule of entertainment.”
Other “perfect entertainers” being tapped for the evening’s festivities are Keith McGill, DJ Syimone and drag performers from PLAY Dance Bar.
On average, between three and five students in crisis get help from the LGBT Center each week. Many people come out in college, and even on a regular day it can be tough to try to learn what it means to be queer, not to mention learning how to adult. But for many LGBT youth, the coming-out process is dangerous.
“Some of that is helping students in financial crisis, when they are kicked out of their homes. They come out over the holidays and get told not to come back,” says Buford. “We work with less (money) in the lean times, but what we hope is that we’ll raise enough money to really do right by these kids and make sure they are successful.”
The threat of immediate homelessness and financial need is pressing, but crisis is a part of life for many young people in the queer community.
“We know that LGBT students are at high risk of dropping out of school, for attempting suicide, for having substance abuse issues, for becoming homeless. They are at high risk,” says Buford.
The center needs to be able to see students through crisis, but Buford believes the center’s work needs to go even further.
“To be a great campus and LGBT Center, we have to go above and beyond,” he says. “Help those students who are out and proud and doing well, provide leadership opportunities to them, ways for them to engage and things that celebrate their identity.”
Other programs at the center include LGBT study abroad, bringing in LGBT speakers, and having a great Pride Week.
But UofL is going beyond even that and serving future students, future adults and future LGBT folks who may never even step foot into Louisville.
“A really big part of what we’ve been doing in the last few years is our work in the health sciences,” says Buford. “UofL is the first school in the country to infuse LGBT competencies into the medical school curriculum. UofL is teaching future physicians how to be LGBT-friendly.”
Most LGBT people have had bad experiences trying to access health care. They face micro-aggressions from some doctors, and Buford mentions research that shows there is a high percentage of harassment that happens when LGBT people try to access health care.
“For UofL to be the first university in the country infusing the curriculum in that way, it’s going to have an impact that really is almost impossible to measure,” says Buford.
Tickets are $125. The event starts at 7 p.m. at the Speed Art Museum, 2035 S. Third St.