Just south of the new LDS temple in downtown Provo stands a brilliantly blue memory of the 1890’s. The house for the non-profit Encircle is anything but unassuming. The building was run-down when Stephenie Larsen, Encircle’s Executive Director, chose it as the future home for the LGBTQ+ family and youth resource center.
“We decided to keep all of the original elements of the house,” said Jake Dunford, Encircle’s freelance creative designer, “so that every kid’s family member [who] comes in knows that we don’t plan to change or renovate them.”
The mix of historical architecture and modern art provided a unique atmosphere for Encircle’s art sale Jan. 30. The original staircase rail and much of the original house was preserved, making the house itself feel like a part of the artwork. With over 100 works of art, the gallery began Jan. 28 and was open to the public until Feb. 4.
They sold 70 pieces of the art on the first day, according to Dunford. The sale featured pieces from local artists and provided art supplies for guests to paint as well. Paintings of all shapes and sizes hung from every free space on the walls. The event featured live music as well, with a cellist and pianist playing as people wandered up and down the stairs looking at the artwork.
All the artwork was for sale except one piece custom made by J. Kirk Richards, valued at $80,000, which was donated and will stay in the center. Despite its location in downtown Provo, Encircle members were quick to share the many stories of generous donations and volunteers helping to make the center possible.
“The community has been extremely supportive,” said Larsen. “I thought it would be misunderstood, and instead I feel like we have just seen the best of people. I have more emails than I can return, almost, from people who want to help.”
The non-profit makes it clear that their main goal is inclusion. They decided to build their center in a home so that all who come would feel a sense of family and love, according to Dunford. College students from both BYU and UVU are welcome along with family members and people of all ages when they officially open Feb. 13. Larsen said they want families and people from the community to come together at Encircle to have good, educational conversations.
“You take those better conversations back into your ward and neighborhood and hopefully with time things get a little easier for those kids and families,” said Larsen. Encircle hopes to involve local LGBT groups such as BYU’s USGA (Understanding Same Gender Attraction) and UVU’s Spectrum as it plans future events to promote love and conversation.
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