Love. Sex. Unity. Respect. in Fullerton

Fullerton gallery owner and social activist, Stephan Baxter aims to fight discrimination in the Gay and Lesbian community (LGBT) by raising money for AIDS Walk OC and by proving to his father that Prop. 8 is wrong.

Fullerton gallery owner and social activist, Stephan Baxter aims to fight discrimination in the Gay and Lesbian community (LGBT) by raising money for AIDS Walk OC and by proving to his father that Prop. 8 is wrong.

Co-Curator, Stephan Baxter, discusses

The Magoski Arts Colony is an expanding collective of artists that have built a community within a single roof. Each gallery carved out of this common ground displays exhibits chosen by their curators respectively. However, on a few occasions the gallery operators have unified their showcase to feature artists willing to speak out about specific community and political issues in an event titled, Art With An Agenda.

The colony, opened in 2008, currently hosts three main galleries including PÄS, Hibbleton and Violet Hour, and is equipped with roughly 7000 sq ft of space that will be completely filled with art celebrating marriage equality come opening day, May 3.

Along with his co-curator Valerie Lewis, Stephan Baxter, 48, co-curator and coordinator of the gallery dubbed Best of OC by The OC Weekly in 2012, is looking to raise awareness of marriage equality through love. sex. unity. and respect., but mostly through selling artwork.

50% percent of all proceeds from the sale of showcased items in will benefit AIDS Walk OC, who’s 2013 5k run/walk coincides with the opening weekend of the marriage equality show.

“You fight AIDS with money,” Baxter said.

Fresh off his success with Art With An Agenda’s last major event in June 2012, a gallery featuring works inspired by Kelly Thomas, a transient man who was beat down and killed by Fullerton P.D. in 2011, Baxter expects a major turnout this time around.

“In May, the big show we’ve been planning for five months, there’s gonna be 2000 [people] here that weekend. I guarantee it,” Baxter said, anxiously.

The featured exhibit, created by Katherine England, the same artist responsible for the mosaic-laden hearts strewn across Downtown Fullerton’s thoroughfares, is an eight-foot tall wedding cake that will be covered with frosting and flowers and will feature photos of over 200 LGBT couples that plan to marry once Proposition 8 is overturned.

The piece was inspired by, and will be dedicated to, Al and Tom, a local gay couple that got together back in 1974.

“They started dating when Nixon was president,” Baxter said, jokingly.  

Baxter aims to help speed up the overturning process by doing what he’s been doing his whole life, raising awareness. He also said that the timing for marriage equality event, in conjunction with the Supreme Court’s recent activity regarding Prop. 8 in California, was no accident, either.

When Baxter started booking artists last October he realized that time might be on his side; “I knew the Supreme Court would address [same sex marriage] this year,” he said.

Hoping the event would fall between oral arguments, which occurred four weeks ago, and the Court’s ruling, which should happen sometime this June, Baxter said, “I took an educated guess...and it landed perfect.”

Raised in a Catholic family that had very little tolerance for anyone of a different persuasion and lead by a man who voted for Prop. 8 in 2008, which denied gays the right to marry, Baxter said that his goal is to, “...connect people [like] my father to the LGBT community. Artistically, I am apologizing for my family in a lot of ways.”  

The marriage equality event is very significant for Baxter, not because of it’s size, scale, or stature of the artists involved, but because of where it’s taking place.

Speaking candidly of his hometown, Baxter said, “Arguably, in the United States, on a political level, I dare you to find any city that has a more homophobic past than Fullerton.”

Citing the repeated election of ultra-conservative seventies politicians like John V. Briggs and William E. Dennemeyer, who were never shy in pointing out that homosexuals were personae non gratae in Orange County, Baxter feels these are politically homophobic relics of Fullerton’s past that should be forgotten.

As an immigrant kid growing up in Scotland, Baxter’s Southern California dream was provided by his father's job at Hughes Aircraft in Glasgow in 1978. When Baxter’s family began their migration west to their new digs in Fullerton and to the local Hughes plant nearby, his inevitable journey into alienation began.

“I was a punk-rock kid; I stuttered horribly bad; I didn’t fit in. I was on the edges of society for many years because I wasn’t accepted by society,” Baxter said. “That’s what causes risky behavior, is feeling alienated.”

Love.Sex.Unity.Respect opens on May 3rd
223 W. Santa Fe Ave., Fullerton, CA 92832

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