Encircle art benefit supports LGBTQ youth

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The Encircle house is located in Provo. (Arianna Davidson)

Volunteers, community members and artists gathered at the Provo Encircle house Jan. 19 for an art benefit to raise money for the house and the opening of another house in Salt Lake City.

Encircle hosted the event, titled Love Louder, to support LGBTQ youth and local artists. It showcased over 250 works from more than 110 artists Friday and Saturday. All artwork on display in the house was available for purchase and 100 percent of the donations went to fund Encircle programs.

Prominent artists featured in the event include Megan Ah You from Sundance Art Studios and Pilar Pobil who was recently recognized as one of Utah’s most influential artists.

Encircle Chief Operating Officer Jacob Dunford embraces a guest entering the Encircle home. (Arianna Davidson)

In a press release, Encircle founder and CEO Stephanie Larsen said Encircle programs allow LGBTQ youth to thrive.

“At the core of our programming is a connection and creativity,” Larsen said. “Our Love Louder Art Series is one of our most popular programs because it speaks to our LGBTQ+ youth in a very powerful way, as it allows them to heal and express themselves through the art.”

Encircle volunteer Debbie Tanne offered tours and answered questions Saturday night as people roamed through the house looking at the art.

“The goal and mission of Encircle is to create, I suppose, a model of a loving, respectable home,” Tanne said.

Tanne added that having a home rather than an office allows youth to feel welcomed and loved in a home environment.

Eighteen-year-old Micah Toelupe painted “Untitled” for the Love Louder art series at Encircle. (Arianna Davidson)

Eighteen-year-old Micha Toelupe is a frequent participant in Encircle’s resources and workshops and submitted a watercolor painting for the benefit event.

“The event means a lot,” Toelupe said. “Seeing all the people here shows that the community cares. This place has changed the community a lot even just in the past few years.”

In addition to the artwork on display for purchase, Encircle will also be hosting art workshops by some of Utah’s artists during January and February.

“We wanted this to be a place of beauty and express that you can find beauty in difficulty and challenge,” Tanne said. “If we can provide a beautiful environment then it allows the kids to find beauty in their own lives.”

The Love Louder art series at Encircle raised funds for programs for LGBT youth in Utah County. (Arianna Davidson)

Tanne said many people can relate to art, and it can be therapeutic for many individuals. She added the house now has a new program that offers writing workshops.

Shelby McCashland, who had never heard of Encircle before, happened to be in town from Logan and decided to attend the event after hearing about it.

“I think Encircle is such a cool non-profit,” McCashland said. “I love how they used an actual house for their space — that really speaks to their purpose.”

Community members spent the night admiring artwork and learning about the house’s resources and workshops available to LGBTQ youth and their families.

“Human” was painted by Phillip Sevy. (Arianna Davidson)

“I think it’s really important to have places like Encircle, especially in Utah. Not everyone has a supporting and loving home to go to at the end of the day, but everyone deserves one,” McCashland said. “Encircle is making a home and community for people who need one.”

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