KOKOMO, Ind. — By nature, Sarah Webster is a soft-spoken person.
As an artist, though, she’s not afraid to speak up through graphic design work, especially in support of a cause she supports.
As one of seven new media, art, and technology (NMAT) students featured in the annual Thesis Exhibition, open now in the Indiana University Kokomo Downtown Art Gallery, she’s using artwork to highlight the LGBTQ+ community and skateboarders, both of which she says are often viewed in a negative light.
She printed it on skateboards, which form the shape of a heart, because she sees skateboarders share a connection with the LGBTQ+ community.
“I wanted to print on skateboards because of the connection of rebellion, and there’s a bad rap on both communities,” Webster said. “I call the piece ‘Renegade Hearts’ to show we are renegades in society, but we also have our own love. We’re fighting against the norms of society out of life, because of the way we all have different identities. We’re fighting to have different perspectives on who we love and who we are as people.”
The show continues in the Downtown Art Gallery, 102 North Main Street, through May 20, with a reception from 5:30 to 9 p.m. May 6, during Kokomo’s First Friday activities.
Additional featured artists include Dakota Hayden, Fulton; Levi Hanny, Kota Trobaugh, Brittany Lucas and Gavin Hite, Kokomo; and Sienna Urbina, Logansport.
Webster, from Kokomo, was excited to set up the exhibit in the gallery, and finally see their vision come to life.
“I was only looking at mockups of what it could look like,” she said. “I couldn’t tell if it would work or not, but I’m really happy it did. I’m excited for people to see it in the exhibition, and to see the other students’ work. All of them are really, really good.”
Webster said the work reflects their growth both as an artist and as a person while at IU Kokomo.
“When I first got here, I was quieter, and closeted,” she said. “I just felt the care I received here. I made more depressed artwork at first, because I didn’t know exactly who I was until later down the road. I was realizing who I could be. That’s when I figured out, I am a transgender, feminine lesbian. And with that realization, it helped me become more comfortable with myself.”
With that level of comfort, Webster began speaking through artwork, commenting on social issues with it.
“My work is more active when it comes to social issues, and I’m creating works that evolve around self-reflection,” she said. “It’s showing that people like me exist, and I want people to be respectful towards us, because we’re of no harm to anyone.”
She encouraged people to visit the exhibition, to see student work.
“It’s really diverse in genres of art, with paintings, prints, poetry, fashion, and even a virtual reality video people can view,” Webster said. “There will be a variety of things that will make it an enjoyable experience.”
The IU Kokomo Downtown Art Gallery is open from 1 to 7 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free, and free parking is available.