Spending time in faith communities, I hear the word “welcome” frequently. I see it front and center as faith communities market who they are. But so often, welcome is defined by the “giver,” not the “receiver.” Faith communities say, “all are welcome” or a variation on such words. It occurred to me as a documentary artist that I wanted to explore welcome from the perspective of the receiver. Those who walk into faith communities and may or may not feel welcome. So this project was birthed with PFLAG Charlotte in order to create a participatory storytelling piece as part of their community conversation exploring the meaning of welcome, beyond the welcome table.
On Saturday, October 5, 2019, PFLAG Charlotte hosted their annual faith forum, “At the Intersection of Faith and LGBTQ identities”. We asked those in attendance to create a visual piece of art that represented what welcome feels like. As one might expect, asking adults to walk in a room and be visually creative was initially uncomfortable. The predictable responses, “I can’t draw” or “I am not creative.” As people sat with the question, “what does welcome FEEL like?”, their answers and drawings became powerful. We took photographs of the participants holding their art and remaining anonymous, and we recorded audio clips of the participants answering a series of questions about who they are and how welcome feels. This short documentary video is a collective of their art and words and feelings about welcome.
PFLAG Charlotte was founded in 1987 and is a chapter of PFLAG national. Its mission is to support families, allies and people who are LGBTQ, to educate ourselves and others about challenges facing LGBTQ individuals and to advocate in our communities to build a more equitable future for all.