Photo, video and design artist Nic Adenau is raising funds on Kickstarter to finance a trip around the country for "20," a new multimedia project that would document the experiences of LGBT youth, particularly those who may be dealing with anti-LGBT bullying. Adenau, who previously worked with Macklemore on three videos including "Same Love" with Mary Lambert, will collect these stories on LGBT20.com and eventually publish them in an art book.
Adenau spoke with GLAAD about why he is passionate about anti-LGBT bullying, working on the "Same Love" video and his previous art book April 21st,2011: The American LGBT Experience.
GLAAD: You're currently working to raise money for a trip across the West Coast for "20," a multimedia project documenting the experiences of LGBT youth and anti-LGBT bullying. What inspired you to start this project?
Nic Adenau: Since before I was born, my mother has worked to combat human rights issues, specifically in the queer community. So since I can remember, I’ve always had a sense of duty to the community. I’ve been very outspoken about marriage equality and I’m incredibly excited to see the progress we’ve made. But recently I have been more interested in the subjects that are not receiving as much attention. And the issue of LGBT youth bullying is slowly becoming the elephant in the room.
Once I heard the story of Jadin Bell, I started paying a lot more attention to the issue of bullying. I started to investigate more and was shocked by the rising number of deaths by suicide happening in our own country. I was really let down when most of the stories I found were being told through the scope of journalism and not through the voices of these youth. And if you aren’t happy with something, you should change it!
GLAAD: What cities will you be visiting and how can people get involved?
NA: Right now I’m focusing on states not cities because I don’t want to limit myself. I’m still in the middle of finding all of my participants and I know some of the most powerful stories can be in the most obscure places of the country.
At the moment I’m going to be visiting Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Depending on how things play out with support, I’ll do my best to venture out east a bit more.
I would love for people in the queer community to share the project with others who may find inspiration from it. You never know who has a great way to collaborate with any already existing program. Or, more importantly, you never know who has a powerful story that needs to be heard. But with that, I think the best way to get involved is by just emailing me. I’m open to talking and meeting with any person or organization!
GLAAD: The collected stories will be published at LGBT20.com and then published in an art book. Your last art book April 21st, 2011: The American LGBT Experience was nominated for the American Library Association's Over the Rainbow Award, can you talk a bit about that project?
NA: For the book April 21st, 2011, I sent out 21 disposable cameras to 21 LGBT people across the country. I asked them all to take a self-portrait of themselves and then to fill up the rest of the camera with photos that represented a day in their lives on April 21st, 2011. I ended up winning an art grant through the School of Architecture and Allied Arts at the University of Oregon and donated all of the proceeds to the LGBT center on campus.
The project was really powerful and I had a lot of fun. I learned about the life styles within the lesbian and trans community. The best part is that I talk to every one of the participants from the project. Some of them I would even consider my closest friends!
GLAAD: You've worked on three of Spirit Day Ambassadors Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' music videos, including "Same Love" with Mary Lambert. How did you first get involved with the group and how did the video for "Same Love" come about?
NA: I reached out to the Macklemore management in November of 2011, long before "Thrift Shop," and offered my video services. They got back to me and said they would keep me in mind. A few months later they asked me to help out with a video for a new song, now known as “Same Love.” That process was crazy even though the concept started very basic. The video concept kept evolving more ambitiously every week because I think Ben (Macklemore) realized how much potential the song had to make a statement on social rights and the issue of homophobia in hip hop. I had no idea the video would end up being referred to as to a “gay anthem” for the year of 2013.
I went on to do a lot of other work with the crew, and even came on as a full time employee for 6 months. I worked on a diverse range of projects including video production, tour planning, and whatever else it takes to make a pop group function. Which, trust me, is a lot of random and strange tasks! It was a great experience to witness such a passionate group of people achieve so much as independent artists. I’m excited to see what they do next.
GLAAD: What would you like to tell LGBT youth who may be dealing with bullying?
NA: Before advising anything, I just want to listen. I’m very interested in hearing the stories of as many LGBT youth as possible, even if not all the stories end up officially being in “20”. But to the youth that I may not get the privilege to speak to, I’d want to tell them to keep fighting. Middle and high school years are only a few years of your life. Once you’re out of there you are going to meet so many amazing people. Also make sure to surround yourself by people within the queer community. There is so much to learn from your queer peers.