Award-Winning Program Introduces Youth to Museum
Mapping Q, which introduces LGBTQ youth to museum spaces, recently received the SAAF Volunteer Award for Original Contribution.

By Gina Compitello-Moore, University of Arizona Museum of Art
June 25, 2015


(Photo credit: Patrick McArdle/UANews)

The award-winning and innovative Mapping Q program has returned to the University of Arizona Museum of Art for a third iteration with a summer of workshops, and an exhibition is being planned for August.

Mapping Q, which is run in collaboration with the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation's Arizona Life Links for Youth program, invites lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth and their allies to explore representations of self within the UA museum.

The program recently received the SAAF Volunteer Award for Original Contribution.

"Mapping Q is a very special project because it empowers queer youth through art," said Sarah Bahnson, SAAF's suicide prevention specialist.

"Queer youth voices are rarely represented in larger cultural conversations, but through Mapping Q their voices are acknowledged, celebrated and given the opportunity to change the conversation in the world around them," Bahnson said. "They learn that they have the power to affect change and that their identities matter."

During the program, participants map the museum and the work within, then create original artworks in response to their discoveries, adding their unique voices to the story. The works will be displayed in an exhibition in the museum's Mezzanine Gallery from Aug. 12 through Sept. 13.

Chelsea Farrar, UAMA assistant curator of education, developed the program and has been with it since its inception. Farrar also was honored with the Museum Association of Arizona's 2015 Individual Achievement Award for her work with the program.

"Mapping Q provides the space for LGBTQ youth to define their own identities and to speak for themselves," Farrar said. "The program and the exhibition that follows gives agency to an often-neglected voice in museums."

This program, which is supported by the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation and the UA Institute for LGBT Studies, also has allowed UAMA to open its doors to first-time visitors and offer a unique introduction to the campus experience.

"Mapping Q demonstrates the power of connecting with communities through genuine inclusiveness," said James Burns, UAMA's director.

"This program creates a welcoming environment where 'othering' is unimaginable and 'differences' are invisible. Mapping Q helps to break down barriers and dispels misconceptions, promoting the UAMA and the UA as accessible to all," Burns said. "The youth who participate in this program and their families come away with an understanding that they belong in both institutions." 


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Gina Compitello-Moore

University of Arizona Museum of Art