Encircle is an ever-expanding non-profit organization that supports members of the LGBTQ+ community in Utah. Founded in 2016 by Stephanie Larsen, Encircle began as a gathering place and resource center for LGBTQ+ youth and their families. With locations now in Provo, Salt Lake City, and St. George, Encircle reaches across the state with a caring hand. All three of these locations reside in old homes, giving each of Encircle’s buildings a welcoming and comfortable feeling. This year, within each of these homes, Encircle has opened three new art galleries.
These galleries support local artists and strive to create safe, inclusive spaces for LBGTQ+ youth, young adults, and families. The galleries share their purpose on the Encircle website, stating “we value highlighting and expanding the perspective of LGBTQ+ art by creating opportunities for LGBTQ+ and ally artists.” Art pieces rotate through the galleries and all proceeds from sales go to the artists and to supporting Encircle’s mental health services. Encircle brands its galleries as “Art with Heart,” keeping a constant focus on the organization’s primary purpose to support and care for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Artists who support the organization’s mission, such as Annie Farley, Colby Sanford, and Jann Meads, have all been highlighted by Encircle. Most recently, Encircle posted a profile on respected artist Paul Redd-Butterfield. He was able to share some of his story coming out as gay, his wish that something, like encircle, could have been there to help him, and his hope that the more people who get involved will mean greater access for LGBTQ+ people to the resources available to them. The Encircle galleries have created unique and safe spaces where individuals can both immerse themselves deeper into the art scene of Utah while also supporting the life-saving work offered by this important organization.
The galleries offer a wide range of subject matter and mediums, from about forty different artists to their viewers. From a quilt made by Pamela Asquith to Annie Farley’s oil landscapes, and Emi Fukino’s works of effervescence done using the encaustic process, the works located at these galleries are diverse and appealing. Some of the works contain clear LGBTQ+ themes, but many of them don’t, reminding the viewers that Encircle hopes to expand the perspective of what is considered LGBTQ+ art. Phillip Sevy’s work “Human,” falls into this former category. This watercolor, which can be seen online or at the Provo location, features two rows of five people’s faces placed against a rainbow background. The top row shows each individual covering their face with their hand. A word written on the back of each hand identifies each person as a member of the LGBTQ+ community: Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, and NB (non-binary). Directly underneath this is another row of the same five individuals, their hands dropped from their faces, which are smiling out at the viewer. Words now are written on their foreheads: worthy, loved, valued, beautiful, and needed. The work is a sweet reminder that those of the LGBTQ+ community are important, deserving of love, and valuable to our community. It can also read as a reminder that LGBTQ+ people’s experiences and expressions of self are valid and do not have to fit into the stereotypes of how society thinks any given LGBTQ+ individual should look or behave to be valid.
Annie Farley’s work “Evening Light,” at the Salt Lake City gallery, features a rushing stream. Water flows over large rocks and deep green trees line the other side of the river. The beginnings of a yellowish sunset can be seen hitting the trees on the far left side of the work, turning the foliage an earthy gold color. The work is done in a very painterly style, with quick brushstrokes and little detail. It is light and peaceful capturing a moment in nature that will never be repeated. Encircle makes space for both of these kinds of paintings, with very different themes, to coexist in each one of their galleries.
Encircle has big plans for the future and is currently working on extending its circle of care by opening three new locations in Utah and five new locations out of state. These homes will be located in Heber City, Ogden, and Logan along with two homes in Idaho, one in Nevada, and two in Arizona. It is not clear if each of these new locations will also have galleries. The current galleries expand the view of LGBTQ+ art while offering a unique and safe experience for LGBTQ+ individuals and allies who might want to contribute to the care and therapy resources that LGBTQ+ people have access to in our state.
To learn more about the organization and view art at their three Utah locations visit https://www.encirclegallery.org.