Thursday, August 18, 2016

HIVisions - Saving the world is risky business: Self-care for HIV/AIDS advocates

By Jan Gabriel Castañeda

The HIV crisis has gone on for four decades, and for four decades the world has struggled against it. Doctors, scientists, educators, policy makers, writers, artists -- people of all walks and all colors have, in their own ways, sought to make sense of this crisis and its relationship with society. From citizens to states, from medicine to prayer, from cures to cries for reform, people’s visions of how to respond to the crisis are as diverse as the people who bear its scars. The goal of this series is to give you a glimpse of these visions: the roles people of different passions and disciplines have played in this crisis that, as of March 2016 as recorded by the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau, is infecting 25 Filipinos daily.

To call compassion a dangerous temptation is a little odd, but it is something every advocate understands well. It’s the temptation to give without restraint, moved by the moral compulsion to serve a higher purpose and the natural high that comes with generosity. To give, after all, is the noblest of human works – and gratitude, the noblest of all intoxicating substances. And while advocacy is preferable to drug use (isn’t it?), the risks that come with sacrificing yourself for social change can be just as daunting.

In the counseling setting, we find that each case brings their own challenges, each new therapeutic relationship coming with their own world to explore. For clients who have taken it upon themselves to save the world, their experience as advocates evokes a mix of feelings that at once fascinates and terrifies. The ambiguity that so necessarily plagues advocacy work – the tension between hope and hopelessness – raises dilemmas that escapes most of us who live unplugged from the realities of social injustice. And these ambiguities quite often escape the advocates themselves, who may end up ignoring or setting aside these fascinating and terrifying feelings in favor of what they perceive as a larger problem. After all, what are the troubles of one heart compared to the troubles of the whole world?

But as any counselor who has worked with advocates knows, it’s exactly that thinking where the troubles start. They may come to the counseling room expecting us to help bounce around ideas or offer political solutions to social injustice, but like as we might, counseling is not a meeting on strategic policy. To psychologist Rod Penalosa, the objective of the counseling relationship is to shift the focus back to them: the advocate. Because while they’re off saving the world out there, their own worlds often go unexplored.

Self-care as an issue of social justice

Rod Penalosa
While he initially intended to attend law school and practice family law, Rod explains, “I realized that psychology was a better fit for the advocacy that I had in mind, which was to support children and families in crisis and those requiring support.” To aid in the advocate’s discernment of their inner lives was itself a solution to social injustice.

A graduate of the University of San Francisco, he is currently finishing his doctoral dissertation in counseling psychology. Back in California, he worked for the Community Health for Asian Americans, a non-profit agency in Oakland that provides services to low-income clients from mostly Asian, Hispanic, and African-American communities. And here in the Philippines, he serves as a psychotherapist consultant at MedMom Child Development Clinic. He currently runs a program called Circle of Hope, which aims to provide psychological services to adolescent cancer patients and their families, the medical staff, and volunteers of Philippine General Hospital.

“As a therapist who works in a clinical group practice setting, I consider myself and my colleagues to be advocates for social justice, health and wellness, because we choose to serve the marginalized population of the community,” Rod explains. “As a gay man-of-color myself, I am considered to be a minority in most cultural norms, and I have a social obligation to reframe this image and perception that society carries by being a voice and a visible presence of healing and empowerment.”

The consequences of caring too much

When asked what advocates’ most pressing mental health issues were, he began with a description of what advocacy entails: “We are givers, nurturers, care providers, and healers. We are in this profession because it comes naturally for us to devote ourselves completely to our work, clients, principles, and causes.” In his experience however, Rod has observed a dangerous side to this devotion: a perpetuation of the mindset that says, “Always put the needs of others first before your own”. This leads advocates to disregard their own well-being.

“Many of us in this profession neglect the value of practicing self-care, which often leads to elevated amounts of physical and emotional stress,” Rod cautions. And high stress levels, which accumulate when we allow our own pain to go unattended, can take its toll in many ways.

According to Rod, some of the more familiar “warning signs” that an advocate might be accumulating unhealthy levels of stress are: fatigue and exhaustion, sleeplessness (less than 6 hours of sleep at least 3 days a week) or oversleeping (more than 10 hours of sleep at least 3 days a week), irritability, excessive and constant worrying, lack of appetite or overeating, excessive tearfulness and sadness, lack of job satisfaction, incapacity to experience any pleasure, emotional outbursts, and other physical symptoms (e.g. headaches, stomach aches, diarrhea, nausea, unexplainable muscle tension and pain, slow mobility, etc.).

“Burnout” is another term for the way these symptoms come together, and it is a shockingly ubiquitous feature in modern society. And on the advocate’s part, Rod explains, when we take on more than what is within the scope of our competence and practice, we subject ourselves to compassion fatigue. That is, we exhaust the heart – a muscle which, contrary to popular media, is by no means an infinite resource. (And when we say we exhaust the heart, we mean that quite literally.)

Rod explains the advocate’s “save the world” mentality another way: “When we aspire to ‘save’ our clients and take personal and professional responsibility for their setbacks, drawbacks, and downfall, we lose sight of the fact that we merely function as facilitators and support system. But we must remember that it is the client who has the main responsibility of actualizing the work that is necessary to improve their condition.” The client here, in this case, is the society we are working to change. And as in psychotherapy, when we plunge too deeply into society’s issues without having a firm grip on our own condition, we risk drowning. And we are of no use to anyone gasping for air.

Take care of yourself to take care of others

So while we labor on towards social justice, what can advocates do to stay well? Rod says that taking the time to create a balance between one’s private and public lives is a good place to start. "Let us not forget to incorporate play and fun into our lives. We don’t have to take life so seriously all the time. Find the means to embody and express gratitude daily. When we focus on matters that cultivate the positive elements in our lives, we create and reinforce habits and a lifestyle that promote an optimistic outlook on life.”

“We should be aware that we are just as responsible for our own empowerment and liberation just as we are advocates in liberating and raising the consciousness of others,” Rod reminds us. “We must always ask ourselves: What is the cause of my advocacy? Why is this important to me? How can I utilize my strengths in advocating for others?”

And taking care of yourself, Rod emphasizes, is a responsibility advocates have not just to themselves but to those they serve: “We have to remember that we can create long-lasting, impacting changes if we are clear about our mission, vision, and boundaries.” The point on boundaries is especially important: in serious HIV/AIDS advocacy, as with all advocacies that involve the body, we are so often forced into the most raw and vulnerable spots of the people we serve that it becomes so easy to get lost in their pain. But as advocates, we cannot afford to get lost.

So in counseling the advocate, the general advice is this: if we keep ourselves in mind, we stand a better chance of saving the world.

Friday, August 05, 2016

LoveYourself Holds Iconic "Wear Love" 2016 Campaign as #OneLove

HIV/AIDS advocacy group LoveYourself will once hold its annual advocacy campaign called “Wear Love” featuring the iconic LoveYourself shirts which have been worn by numerous personalities, as well as LoveYourself volunteers, who in turn may have their photos taken. The resulting collection of photos reflects the organization’s vision of bringing together people from different walks of life for one cause: HIV/AIDS awareness advocacy through self-worth.

Proceeds from sales of the shirts and the photo shoots have been used for funding the organization’s activities. More than the spirit of unity, LoveYourself’s name itself sends the message emphasizing the importance of self-worth and loving oneself. In fact, the triangle of self-care which LoveYourself counselors keep on tirelessly imparting to both clients and fellow volunteers, speaks of caring for oneself through timely testing and treatment, safe and satisfying sex, and correct and consistent use of condoms.

From “Wear Love” to “One Love”

LoveYourself has seen itself grow from a small organization of less than ten founding volunteers to one with over 700 hundred registered volunteers. The organization has, at the beginning of 2016, opened a new clinic called LoveYourself Uni near the junction of Buendia and Taft Avenue in Pasay City. The bright and perky interiors of the clinic are part of the organization’s vision of providing a worry-free environment where clients can feel at home.The strategic location of the clinic also aims to make testing and counselling accessible to students from nearby universities.

LoveYourself has also started rolling out the NEX+ CHAP+ER program, which is the organization’s life coaching service for people living with HIV (PLHIVs). The program aims to encourage PLHIVs to continue receiving treatment and also to provide a safe space for clients to talk about their experiences and problems and help them find ways to solve these issues. More than this, LoveYourself is setting up plans for distribution and promotion of PreP or pre-exposure prophylaxis, as one method of HIV/AIDS prevention.

As this year has been marked by a lot of changes and new endeavors, LoveYourself has decided to modify this year’s “Wear Love” campaign to “One Love” (#OneLove). Similar to the message of unity delivered by previous “Wear Love” campaigns, “One Love” underscores this more heavily through its self-evident name as well as its campaign methodology. Firstly, the black shirts have been replaced with white shirts, with the usual LoveYourself logo printed across the chest. The campaign will have an additional twist, cleverly highlighting the importance of self-worth by juxtaposing loving things one is passionate about with loving oneself.

The campaign’s emphasis on unity has never been more timely as the organization’s membership base has never been larger than before. With hundreds of volunteers with diverse backgrounds, “One Love” reflects the congealment of unique individuals’ efforts, volunteers or non-volunteers, towards the organization’s causes--HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, regular testing, and self-worth.

#OneLove Photoshoot

The #OneLove photoshoot is scheduled on August 20 and 21, 2016, at the DHQ Studios located at the second floor of the Alphaland Makati Place at the corner of Ayala Avenue Extension and Malugay Street in Makati City. A donation of 1,000PHP will include a #OneLove LoveYourself tee that will be worn during the shoot, hair styling (excluding grooming and cutting), and two digital copies of your photos to be sent to your email. To register for the event and for more details, please proceed to

Thursday, August 04, 2016

LoveYourself Volunteer Spotlight: Through the lenses of Ian Felix Alquiros

Arts advocate, photographer, and LoveYourself co-founder Ian Felix Alquiros shares how his journey with the organization started, and how art helps the advocacy.

By Gian Geronimo

Ian Felix Alquiros, one of LoveYourself 's co-founders and the organization's VP of Partnerships, never in his wildest dreams thought he would be involved in an organization such as LoveYourself. "When I was younger, I never thought I would even come out to my family and to the public, much less join something as big as LoveYourself," Ian, a project manager in the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), says.

But as he got older, he became more exposed to the issues the gay community faced, particularly the issues concerning the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Thus, it was inevitable that he would be involved in a cause in the future.

"My membership in LoveYourself was spontaneous," Ian, now 40, says. "We were very concerned with the HIV situation in the gay community, so when the opportunity came to start something to help out, we all gave our best effort to make sure we succeeded."

Building blocks
Ian, a seasoned photographer, met LoveYourself CEO and President Vinn Pagtakhan in 2011 at Fashion Week. "Vinn was introduced to me as the recent winner of the Twitter Nurse of the Year, so I was immediately impressed with his recent achievement," Ian shares. "That same afternoon, Vinn already expressed the idea of creating an NGO group that would address the rising numbers of HIV cases in the Philippines."

That year, Ian was a full-time photographer running a studio in Quezon City. He specialized mostly on male modeling portfolios and most of his clientele comprised of male modeling agencies and different LGBT and men who have sex with men (MSM) organizations.

"I was very aware of what has been happening in the MSM community because of my work and… I knew of a couple of personal acquaintances who have suddenly died of unknown causes," Ian notes.
"At the back of our minds, [my friends and I] were already worrying about what was happening, but we didn't know where to start," he also says. And so, when Vinn proposed his plans to create what would become LoveYourself at a birthday celebration where Ian was also in attendance, this event would set Ian off on a path to spreading awareness about the group's advocacy.

"Meeting Vinn was the answer to my prayers, and Chris (Lagman, also a LoveYourself co-founder) joining us during the consultation is a blessing," Ian says. "Without them, the organization would not have been successful."

Through his lens
But Ian has had his own major contributions to the organization, too. In fact, LoveYourself's first testing activity wouldn't have happened if it weren't for Ian's photography. "It just so happened that I knew the admin of a known website involving online sex workers because some of them were my photography clients," Ian notes.

In line with this, LoveYourself's first testing project, along with the help of the Quezon City Health Department, was conceptualized. In 2011, the organization successfully held "A Day With the Boys," which was held at Replay Spa.
But how did Ian's love for photography start? "When I was borrowing my friend's camera, that friend told me that I could take good shots and that I should really start taking my photography seriously," he says. "And so I bought my own camera and started travel photography.  I eventually ventured into portraits and started to specialize in male model photography.

His photography would also play a role in other LoveYourself activities. "I started gaining a lot of clients, which made decide to quit my BPO job to open up my own studio (theROOM Photography Studio) in Quezon City, which became the first hide-out of LoveYourself for events, trainings and parties."

Being a member of LoveYourself wasn't always a walk in the park before, though, shares Ian. "It took time before local and national government agencies took LoveYourself seriously, especially since when we were just starting, we had no achievements to speak of," he says. "We also found it difficult to operate without funds; we really had to think of creative ways to generate funding."

Eventually, he says, they gained the trust of relevant stakeholders and increased the number of their supporters through other testing events, among other initiatives.

"All our succeeding testing events were very successful in terms of generating the number of attendees, something that no other previous advocacy or LGU group was able to do," Ian notes. "That's why we got immediate attention. Even though there were detractors, which cannot be avoided, we still succeeded."

Ian also says: "The partnership with RITM and the management of the LoveYourself Hub in Malate [which has now been replaced by LoveYourself Uni in Pasay] were the turning points. We took off from there.”.

Art and advocacy
Ian's passion for the arts is undeniable, and seemingly insatiable. He currently works for the National Commission for Culture and Arts' (NCCA) International Affairs Office as a project manager.
"We deal mainly with foreign governments and embassies as long as it’s about culture and arts," he shares. "Art has always been my first love, and events management came as an acquired skill due to my long exposure to this job. I enjoy every minute of my work."

Aside from his work with the NCCA, he is also involved in a multitude of arts-related initiatives. "Aside from travel photography, videography, and blogging, I used to do a lot of fire (poi) dancing. I also recently started enjoying the art of calligraphy and adult coloring books, mainly as stress reliever to my sometimes stressful job," Ian shares.

Does he think art can do something to promote HIV awareness? "Sometimes, HIV and AIDS are hard to digest. Art is universal, and the general public can understand something more if it's done through the arts," Ian notes.

"Sometimes, arts can be a bigger influence because they elicit emotions that are otherwise difficult through conventional lectures. We really have to be creative on how we explore all avenues including the arts to reach a wider audience."

High hopes
As one of LoveYourself's founders, Ian is just so proud of what the organization has done, though he knows the fight is far from over.

In May 2016, there were 739 new HIV cases reported to the HIV/AIDS & Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) Registry of the Philippines, the official record of the total number of laboratory-confirmed HIV positive individuals. Out of that number, 106 developed into AIDS cases. Since the first AIDS case was reported in the Philippines in 1984, there have been 34,158 HIV cases in the country, including 3,070 AIDS cases.

"I really hope we still get bigger and more known. We still need a lot of support, especially from the national government," Ian says. "I wish the government will make HIV awareness a primary agenda, and that even the Catholic Church would join our advocacy. We cannot do this alone, we need to do more until we really get their attention and support."

Ian also acknowledges the organization's victories. "Every year, when I attend LoveYourself 's anniversary celebrations, I always feel so proud of our achievements as a group," says Ian. "We are now leading the HIV advocacy in the country, and it's not that difficult anymore to solicit funds."

He continues: "We have come a long, long way in such a short span of time, and I cherish every moment of our growth. I can only imagine how big we are as an organization five years from now."

Ian is well aware of how far LoveYourself has come from the organization's initial birthing pains in 2011. "When the group first started, counselling and education were our only priorities," he says. "Now we are already doing testing on our own, we have treatment services, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is upcoming."

Ian concludes: "These are things that we thought would only be possible after more than 10 years. Thanks to all the volunteers and the leaders of the group, these are now realities."

Photos: Ian Felix Alquiros
Photo Editing: Mark Long

LoveYourself Volunteer Spotlight is a monthly feature on the cause- and service-oriented members of LoveYourself. We will be chatting with volunteers from all walks of life – all united in one cause. Keep checking every month to meet the different faces of LoveYourself.

Have you been inspired by the courage and commitment of our volunteers? Like us on Facebook and help share our message of positivity and self-worth in your own communities to help fight the spread of HIV.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

HIVisions - Visions Gone Viral

By: Kris Tangco

The HIV crisis has gone on for four decades, and for four decades the world has struggled against it. Doctors, scientists, educators, policy makers, writers, artists -- people of all walks and all colors have, in their own ways, sought to make sense of this crisis and its relationship with society. From citizens to states, from medicine to prayer, from cures to cries for reform, people’s visions of how to respond to the crisis are as diverse as the people who bear its scars. The goal of this series is to give you a glimpse of these visions: the roles people of different passions and disciplines have played in this crisis that, as of March 2016 as recorded by the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau, is infecting 25 Filipinos daily.

From left to right: Tokwa Peñaflorida, Henri Palma, and Kay Aranzanso

It was a muggy April evening as I sat down at a coffee shop in Capitol Commons with Henri Palma, Kay Aranzanso, and Tokwa Peñaflorida. Lamps lay low over the counter table where we were seated, the warm light creating a lazy haze that hung low between us. Other people chatted heartily while the busy sound of aspirating coffeemakers punctuated the noise of the air.

Henri Palma, a program director of a corporate foundation, is in-charge of exhibits and arts appreciation activities spearheaded by the foundation. I sat beside Henri, facing across the table two of his close friends, Kay and Tokwa. Both were upcoming artists who have worked HIV advocacy into their art before, like the The Red Letter Days exhibit of the advocacy group, Red Whistle.

That evening, we talked about how art speaks out for and with people living with HIV (PLHIV).

Creating Art for the cause  HIV/AIDS

Visual art, with technical skill and creative genius, has the potential to make real our innermost longings. On the finite surface of a canvas or the three-dimensional space of a sculpture or an installation, art is an attempt to create representations of realities that transcend these borders. Artists like Kay and Tokwa draw their inspiration from the peculiarities of everyday, to create images that convey perspectives artists have about various objects and facets of existence and their nuances . For these two artists, we see how their work takes on an established tradition that seeks to make art more amenable to non-conservative views on sexuality.

The conversation focused on how HIV is transmitted. From drug use to unprotected sex, we closed in on the more intimate and vulnerable corners -- spaces and situations that society prefers kept behind closed doors. As Kay and Tokwa talk about their work, they undress sex and its meanings, from one’s quest for power to one’s search for intimacy and self-esteem.

“The focus of my art is mainly erotic art. This is my way of studying the female body,” Kay shares. Fascinated with female anatomy, she describes her nudes as very raw. “As a woman, my take on the female body is different: The male habit of objectifying the female form is removed.” Her figures depart from traditional portrayals of women set by popular culture and trends, which focused on details such as fair skin, plump breasts, narrow waists and curvy hips. Turning her paintbrush away from these, Kay’s art concerns itself with essence: what makes a woman a woman.
Tokwa, on the other hand, sets his brush to the male form: as he creates a substantial amount of homoerotic art as part of his extensive oeuvre, which includes other genres such as children’s books and fashion illustrations. “My thesis back in Fine Arts School focused on gender and sexuality,” Tokwa shares. “I want to explore male sensuality through my art.” Tokwa talks of vulnerability and relationship in explaining his work, all inspired by human experiences of longing and love as expressed in the male homosexual bond.

“Our works are all about sex positivity,” Tokwa points out. Kay’s female nudes and Tokwa’s homoerotic images reveal intimate corners that society would otherwise relegate to more hidden and discreet spaces. “The shock and exposure that our art can give is something that should educate the wider public. If we keep on shunning away sex in our regular conversations, it wouldn’t help educating people about HIV/AIDS,” says Kay.

Both Kay and Tokwa admit their art was not intended for HIV awareness, but that people’s response to their work had naturally grown to accommodate that angle. “I want people to interpret my work in the light of HIV awareness. I don’t want to spoon-feed them,” says Tokwa. To them, it is not about drawing syringes and images of dying people: “To educate people about HIV/AIDS, I think we should be more sex-positive,” Kay says.

Rather than fearing sex uncritically, society must be able to recognize the fundamental place of sex in human life. At one level, we deal with accepting sex as a fundamental reality of human existence that it helps to actually be more open about it. And on another level, we deal with accepting PLHIVs by emphasizing that their experiences and struggles in life are much closer to normal. “Our art draws from the intersection of personal experience, sexuality, and the body. It is something that we all have and do,” says Tokwa.

Works for The Red Letter Days: “Penitensya” and “Pectin and Sugar and How to Make Homemade Jams”

"Penitensya" by Kaye Aranzanso

Kay Aranzanso’s “Penitensya” delves into the politics of sex. Here, the woman is on “top”; she is in control, the rhythm imposed by her sexual position, a tool of dominance. Pleasure is her power: power to pleasure her partner and, at the same time, to pleasure herself. Relating this to HIV/AIDS, the figure of a woman on top implies a position of dominance, her being in a position of authority gives her the freedom to use protection or otherwise during sexual intercourse. Relating Kay’s slant on women figures, it is important to remember that the HIV/AIDS crisis, which is often associated with homosexual men, disproportionately affect women. In 2015 for example, 58% of new infections in young people aged 15-24 years old occurred among teenage girls and young women, according to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

"Pectin and Sugar and How To Make Homemade Jams" by Tokwa Peñaflorida

“I started out by thinking of a story with a very personal approach,” explains Tokwa in his piece, “Pectin and Sugar and How To Make Homemade Jams.” The image of two men superimposed with colored blobs and a bunch of fruits is an allusion to a homosexual relationship that has become too comfortable or complacent, both lovers bound by the stickiness of the jam, as it were. The fruit jam is the bright and dense sweetness of their relationship made manifest, but its restrictive viscosity underscores the dangers of their relationship’s complacency. Relating this story to HIV/AIDS, the complacency Tokwa describes in this piece alludes to the complacency of  both lovers to find out their status. In fact, studies have documented a disturbing habit common among gay men of not revealing their HIV status to their partners, out of a need for self-protection and fear of rejection -- a sobering reminder of stigma’s power within the gay community.

Exhibiting art for the cause of HIV

“One goal you should have with your art exhibit is to have a wider reach,” says Henri Palma. Apart from maximizing reach, the exhibit must ensure that its collection gets the message across while maintaining artistic standards in choosing works to be included in the collection.

Henri points to the unpreparedness of the general public in appreciating art. “Art has always had the perception of being elitist. Museums seem to be intimidating venues.” Henri’s exhibits often take place in malls, which are more accessible. Instead of putting up barriers, his exhibits, such as those organized by the corporate foundation where he works, make art more accessible to people.

The art being exhibited is, of course, the heart of any successful exhibit. However, the criteria for choosing what gets in are considerably arbitrary. Principles of formalism can be applied, and this includes an analysis of the form and style of the work, the method for creating the work and purely visual aspects. We see the facility with which Kay and Tokwa create the image of the male and female forms, the complex composition and use of color in Tokwa’s work. The work is evaluated according to various aspects including space, volume, and general aesthetic elements.

On the other hand, the sociocultural and historical context where the work is anchored on introduces a level of relativism. This is where the narratives of each work are considered, one of sexual politics and human experience in the works of our two featured artists. In the context of an HIV/AIDS exhibit, the depth and wealth of meaning it bears with the crisis must be weighed together with theories used for evaluating visual art. Some artists may not have the intention of creating work with HIV/AIDS in mind, but it is highly possible to read these works in the light of HIV/AIDS discourse, as described in the stories of the works of Kay and Tokwa.

“I would not include a still life painting of a syringe, for example,” muses Henri when asked about what kind of images he would want in an exhibit with PLHIVs as the theme. While a painting may be created with great technical skill, the message and narrative it contains may not just have enough relevance to the theme of the exhibit. Discernment on the part of the exhibitor and curator is vital to the collection’s success.

Henri cites Visual AIDS, the only organization that supports solely HIV-related art. Its projects aim to encourage dialogue and scholarship on HIV/AIDS, and supports PLHIV artists in exhibiting their work. Apart from exhibitions, Visual AIDS utilizes art as a catalyst for public presentations about HIV, activism, and social activism. Speakers would explain about various realities of the HIV crisis and PLHIVs’ experiences while keeping the artwork as the focal point of the discussion.

The experiences of those who live with HIV and the larger stories that loom over our collective imaginations are dynamic, and art is well-suited to the task of rendering this complexity into tangible forms. And while art draws from and draws out complexity, artists like Henri, Tokwa, and Kay show that creativity can be anchored on an unchanging virtue: acceptance. Art inspired by the stories of people so often shut out is one way of teaching acceptance, of reaching out by drawing people in.