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The Beginnings Of Ally House Jr., Penn State’s LGBT Art Gallery For A Cause

Penn State will soon have a tiny rainbow house on campus that will serve as both a gallery featuring queer artwork and a fundraising opportunity to help LGBT students in need.

It’s called Ally House Jr. The project comes as the brainchild of Necla Kara, president of the Ally House special living option for students in the LGBT community and LGBT-accepting people at Penn State.

“Ally House Jr. means a lot to me. It’s basically a big list of everything that I want to do for the queer community at Penn State, and it’s just all of that put into one project,” said Kara. “My main goal is helping the Penn State LGBT community here get to know about Ally House, to spread awareness about issues like gender dysphoria, to spread awareness about queer artists, and fundraising for people who need it. I’ve been collecting a lot of gender dysphoria-related art over the years, and just putting my art to a place that’s useful and that can give back to the community means so much.”

Although Ally House Jr. will be tiny, it won’t be difficult to notice. The small art gallery will be painted brightly with rainbow colors. Inside, the gallery will house gender dysphoria art and art created by queer artists. The art will be available to purchase with all funds going toward the Gender Dysphoria Fund for transgender students at Penn State who are in need.

There has always been a need for these kinds of funds. LGBT students can run into lots of problems that keep them from receiving the things that make them feel like themselves because insurance won’t pay for the surgeries or their families are unsupportive.

“I noticed a need for people who were just trying to find money,” Kara said. “Especially in college, we’re already spending so much money on an education that we often times don’t have enough time for gender-affirming things. That can really take a toll on people. It really hurts people in the worst ways. It’s hard to imagine but it’s a really painful thing to not be able to get the surgeries, procedures, and name changes that trans people need sometimes.”

The idea for the art gallery was secondary but landed well in terms of timing. In January, Kara and the team working on Ally House Jr. entered their idea into a contest through IRL, a calendar app used to organize events. The contest asked teams to come up with an event that would bring a community together, and the winner would receive $4,000 to make that event a reality.

“My idea for the fundraiser was kind of outside of that, and so we had to come up with this idea for the opening event. It’s been a lot of time and energy to get all the logistics for this stuff, to create a budget for it, and get people to RSVP so we could win,” Kara said.

The Penn State community came together and RSVP’d for the Ally House Jr. opening event, winning them the contest. The $4,000 will be used to build the house, and the grand opening will feature a drag show and a display of the art in the gallery.

“I’m really glad to be doing this, and we’re hopefully going to get a lot of people who aren’t in the LGBT community showing up because I really want to share that part of queer culture with everybody,” said Kara.

Kara is a sophomore majoring in Molecular Biology and Spanish, so juggling the full plate of online academics and Ally House has complicated the process further.

Kara and Ally House still have some work to do to raise funds to compensate the drag performers for the opening event. Kara was considering looking for volunteers, but he emphasized that he would much rather compensate queer artists and performers because they don’t often get paid what they deserve for how much work they put in.

The gallery will have art on display that will be available as prints for purchase. An online store to buy prints is also in the works so that students who are not on campus can support the Gender Dysphoria fund.

The Gender Dysphoria fund is application-based and will be open to anyone who is looking for funding to get gender-affirming surgeries, name changes, hormones, and so on.

Currently, the money is being handled through a GoFundMe, but a PayPal is being set up so that students who need the funds can receive them directly. It will be run an application process that is advertised in the HUB so that anyone who goes to the LGBT center across from the bookstore can be referred to the application.

“If they go there looking for help, that’s a resource [the LGBT Center] can share for people to apply. I’m sure there will be lots of people who need it, so we won’t have a problem finding people to give the funds to,” said Kara.

Currently, Kara’s friend, Christy Baker, has been running Ally House Jr.’s social media, where they are putting out calls for queer artists and others who are willing to help build Ally House Jr.

“We’re doing some recruitment right now to get more people involved,” Kara said. “We’re looking for some more queer artists to donate art and stuff like that. So right now, we don’t have a lot of people on board, but we are looking for more people.”

Currently, Ally House Jr. does not have an official home base on campus. Kara hopes that the gallery will be near Pattee Library because of its proximity to the Ally House in West.

“I wanted Ally House Jr. to be there to advertise Ally House Senior because not a lot of people know about Ally House, and it is a really, really good resource for students,” said Kara. “I’ve seen people drop out of college because they couldn’t find the support they needed because they’re LGBT, or because they couldn’t figure out the housing systems, or the roommate wasn’t LGBT friendly, and all these horrible situations that are really easily avoided just with Ally House.”

Kara and others involved with Ally House Jr. have been reaching out to all the queer organizations on campus, including Out and Allies in Business, and Opulence, Penn State’s drag club.

Kara is aiming to have the grand opening of Ally House on December 4, 2021, hopefully near Pattee Library. Because the house will be painted like a rainbow, it will serve as not only representation for LGBT students on campus, but also as a resource for them.

“I don’t know if it will raise a lot of money in the first year because there’s a lot of logistic stuff,” Kara said. “But it will definitely get some exposure to the feelings of gender dysphoria in art and how you can use art to cope with gender dysphoria. I think it’ll be just a beacon of information and representation for a lot of people in the first year.”

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About the Author

Mackenna Yount

Mackenna Yount is a freshman food science major from Manitou Springs, Colorado. She loves food, is addicted to coffee, and can give you random facts or bad jokes that nobody cares about. Ask her to bake gluten-free cupcakes and she'll throw in some brownies too. Mackenna can be contacted via Twitter @mackennayount.

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