By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
Over the last few months, the Medfield Public Library, Medfield Outreach, and Medfield Cares About Prevention have worked together to provide a space for LGBTQIA+ youth. The first of two Medfield-based collaborations was held on Wednesday, July 14. During this meeting, several participants helped create masks for a permanent display that will reside in the Medfield Public Library.
The collaboration began when Teen Librarian Erica Cote at the Medfield Public Library reached out to a Facebook group asking if any organizations had interest in hosting programs for teenagers during Pride Month. After pairing up with Translate Gender in Western Massachusetts, Cote contacted Medfield Cares About Prevention and Medfield Outreach to join the already-planned LGBTQIA+ series. Joining them are other New England-based organizations.
Wednesday’s program invited kids aged ten and older to enjoy some pizza while decorating masks. Supplies were provided, with a variety of paint, glitter glue, Mod Podge, phased-out library books, and even different baubles to decorate the masks.
While the event may appear to simply be a fun crafting event, pop-up events like this help LGBTQIA+ youth build some social connections with one another.
“We know from national, state, and local data that LGBTQIA+ identified youth are disproportionately impacted by anxiety, depression, suicidality, and substance use. A powerful protective factor against substance misuse and mental health issues is social connectedness and acceptance, and we aim to provide this sense of belonging through the LGBTQIA+ summer workshop series,” explains Substance Prevention Coordinator Meri Haas of Medfield Youth Outreach.
With so many options, participants were able to decorate their masks however they imagined them. One participant opted to decorate the inside of a mask with a galaxy theme using purple, black, blue, and white paint. On the center was an eye, a symbol that carried onto the next mask, on which they painted a number of eyes. Another participant hesitantly ripped out pages of one of the books and decoupaged them onto the inside and outside of her mask. Other stuck to hand-painting colorful design on their masks.
Much of the summer series has existed virtually. Wednesday’s event brought participants face to face, some for the first time ever. “It was wonderful to gather in person after over a year of relying on virtual events to connect with others. Getting to know the teens in the community and providing an opportunity for teens to gather and co-create something that will leave a lasting legacy in the library was powerful,” said Cote.
The masks they decorated during the event will eventually be seen in the Teen Space at the Medfield Public Library.
On Wednesday, August 11, teens will again be able to take part in an art event to help create pieces that will be placed in the library. “Like this month’s pop-up art event, August’s event will also focus on creating inclusive spaces for LGBTQIA+ youth and youth events,” says Outreach Clinician Chelsea Goldstein-Walsh of Medfield Outreach.
Being an LGBTQIA+ youth can often be isolating, but with this year’s summer series, there’s a welcoming new place for these kids and young adults to go. A list of events can be found at www.tinyurl.com/lgbtqiamedseries and on the Medfield Public Library website.