Finding Community Through Art

By Renee Aguilar, Marketing Manager

March 10, 2022

Sunset paintings on mini canvases in the park

One evening, at Encanto Park in Phoenix, as the sunset painted the sky in sherbet colors of pink, yellow, and orange, Teaching Artist Dylan Winkler guided members of the Phoenix LGBTQ-Employee Alliance in painting their own sunsets on canvas. This arts engagement networking event was organized through Phoenix Center for the Arts’ Artist in Residency program, which provides programs in the visual, performing, and literary arts for all kinds of organizations throughout the valley.

That evening’s Artist in Residency program came by request from Paul Yount, Community Outreach and Networking Committee Chair for the Phoenix LGBTQ-Employee Alliance. Paul described his role within the group as to “develop and implement a community outreach and networking plan to help the LGBTQ-Employee Alliance participate in events that positively impact the community and provide networking opportunities between city employees.”

When asked what led him to contact the Center, he responded, “One of my main goals leading this committee was to connect with local LGBTQ+ artists to give them a platform and safe space to build their careers as an artist. We contacted the Phoenix Center for the Arts in hopes of finding a queer-friendly paint instructor for our ‘Paint in the Park’ event. The Center connected us with Dylan and gave them a platform to do their first-ever paint session leading adults through a sunset painting exercise. We requested the specific theme and the medium of acrylic paint, and the Phoenix Center for the Arts did all of the hard-work to find the perfect candidate to lead our event.”

Teaching Artist Dylan Winkler instructing attendees how to paint their sunsets
Overview of PHX LGBTQ+ Alliance attendees and teaching artist painting in the park with palm trees and puffy cloud sunset in background

Dylan, Teaching Artist and Teen Behavioral Health Specialist, has been working with Phoenix Center for the Arts for four years. They have worked with youth in various capacities, all centered around wellness and the arts, ranging from schools, camps, and residential treatment facilities. Reflecting on their experience with the Center’s Artist in Residency program, Dylan shared, “I have had a wonderful experience with the PCA Artist in Residency Program. I’ve been able to design camp activities, classes, and meet amazing folks of all ages.”

Dylan continued, “The thing I like the most about being a teaching artist is the connection and self discovery that I get to witness as people rediscover their creativity. It’s really magical.” Paul agreed when remarking on how the attendees enjoyed the event, “As the sun was setting in the distance and attendees were mingling/networking, I could not help but smile at the parallels between the sunset painting everyone was doing and the ambiance around us at Encanto Park.”

Paul continued, “All of the attendees could not stop expressing how much fun they had, and how they could not wait to attend our next ‘Paint in the Park’ event. Dylan made everyone feel included, and created opportunities for everyone to make their painting unique. If I could implement art/creative talent into every networking event I would wholeheartedly do so. I think art is an amazing way for people to express themselves.”

Three women smiling as they paint canvases in the park
3 women and 1 man sitting at a table in the park painting sunset canvases with the Pride Flag in the foreground
3 women sitting at a table in the park holding up their work in progress paintings