It Keeps Getting Better for Fine Arts Alum Jason Hanasik

Jason Hanasik (MFA Fine Arts 2009) shot, directed, and edited Gap Inc.'s official "It Gets Better" video, the first video of its kind from a major retailer, for inclusion in the national It Gets Better Project, which is committed to reducing or eliminating harassment of LGBT youth in schools.

The It Gets Better campaign's success is derived from the latest in viral marketing efforts, namely using YouTube to distribute free videos. The campaign relies on the presentation of positive images and real-world personal and professional success stories as told by LGBT persons who attest that with self-acceptance and support of friends and colleagues, life does, in fact, get better—even when it feels most hopeless.

As a contributor to Gap's online creative team, Hanasik pitched the idea of a Gap-employee version to executives after seeing a similar It Gets Better video contribution from the staff at Google. Within two days Gap's CEO green-lighted the project. The result? Hanasik's four-minute collection of LGBT-identified Gap employees emerged in November in which the subjects compare what it was like (growing up gay) to what it's like today to be openly queer in the workplace.

At the time of this post, the video has been viewed on YouTube 47,947 times.

Making Art that Matters

"As I was making it," shared Hanasik, "I kept thinking of not only the thousands of kids and adults who work behind our registers who might need to hear these stories but also the many more who buy our clothes in places like the South, where I grew up. While the artwork I show in galleries and museums is important to me, if I were to rate the work I have done to date, this is easily the most important thing I have ever made." (See Spring 2011 Alumni Notes for a list of Hanasik's recent showings.)

Inspired by Larry Sultan

When asked who inspires him, the talented visual artist from Norfolk, Virginia, attributes his keen photographic sensibility to the late Larry Sultan, who was a professor in CCA's Photography Program up until his death late in 2009.

"The man was a legend in the world of photography. . . . He was the most kind, generous, and insightful teacher I think I have ever had the pleasure of working with. He not only taught me how to really think about images in the world but also how to just be in the world. The latter wasn't anything he vocalized; it was more of the example he set. . . . His voice and guidance are still in my head and continue to inform some of the artistic and life decisions I make today."

CCA's Influence

"The faculty at CCA, the city of San Francisco, and my peers let me just be me. It sounds pretty cliché," Hanasik admits, "but I was a pretty conflicted queer boy before starting CCA. I grew up in the South, and while to some of my friends back home I looked like I had it all together, I realize now how tormented I was by an internal voice constantly condemning my sexuality.

"At CCA, I was able to come to terms with that voice and channel it into my work. The 'It Gets Better' video is a more commercialized application of a sensibility that I began to focus and hone in on while I was a student at CCA and, more importantly, one I was able to be more and more comfortable with deploying."

Additionally, Hanasik is a former teaching assistant for CCA faculty members Jordan Kantor, associate professor in Painting/Drawing and Graduate Program in Fine Arts, and Graduate Program in Visual and Critical Studies chair Tirza T. Latimer, among others.

Even though his post-CCA trajectory is moving full-steam ahead, Hanasik remains involved with the college. He was a graduate studio advisor in the Graduate Program in Fine Arts last semester, and recently learned he'll resume in a similar capacity in the fall.

Measuring Success

"I am currently at work on a cycle of extended projects about the formation of a specific type of masculinity: the military man," Hanasik explains. "As a kid, I was always confused about how to perform as a man, and most certainly confined by the expectations mapped upon me by the culture at large. (Norfolk houses the largest naval base in the world). In my current cycle—and in my work in general—I hope to offer documentation of these processes as well as open up dialogues about them. I am less interested in finding answers and more interested in unearthing the systems that perpetuate archaic and oppressive narratives."

About the It Gets Better Project

In September 2010 nationally syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage created a YouTube video with his partner, Terry Miller, to inspire hope for young LGBT persons facing harassment. In response to a surge in LGBT youth suicide, their inaugural video served as a personal plea for supporters everywhere to tell LGBT youth that, yes, it does indeed get better.

Based on the video's success, Savage and Miller founded the It Gets Better Project and within two months it turned into a worldwide movement, inspiring over 10,000 user-created videos viewed over 35 million times. The project has received submissions from celebrities, organizations, activists, politicians, and media personalities, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Representative Nancy Pelosi, Adam Lambert, Anne Hathaway, Colin Farrell, Matthew Morrison of Glee, Joe Jonas, Joel Madden, Ke$ha, Sarah Silverman, Tim Gunn, Ellen DeGeneres, Suze Orman, the staffs of Gap, Google, Facebook, Pixar, the Broadway community, and many more.

The It Gets Better Project uses the Internet to circulate public service announcement videos that illustrate to young LGBT persons the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach if they can just get through their teen years. One of the key messages is to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone— it will get better.

Visit the It Gets Better Project website to watch videos of love and support, take the It Gets Better Project pledge, and seek additional support through each of the project's two designated beneficiaries: The Trevor Project, which provides resources for LGBT youth in crisis; and GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students.

Related Event

Gap Gear in San Francisco is sponsoring "After it Gets Better: 'Coming Out' at Work and Why it's Good for Business," a speaker presentation and lunch on June 22 from noon to 1 p.m. at the Mission Bay Café. Free and open to the public, but space is limited. RSVP by June 18 to

Related Project

Riding the wave of social responsibility, the college is excited to announce the preliminary stages are in the works for an official California College of the Arts "It Gets Better" video that will include staff, faculty, students, and alumni telling their personal stories. If the project moves ahead as scheduled, CCA may just become the first accredited art college to participate in the It Gets Better Project!

About the Jason Hanasik

In addition to his MFA, Hanasik earned his BFA (summa cum laude) from the State University of New York at Purchase. He also instructs at the ASUC Art Studio at the University of California at Berkeley. His work has been exhibited widely and published in various journals and publications. As a lecturer, Hanasik has delivered talks on his work and/or other artist's artistic practice at SFMoMA, various colleges and universities, and during the Society for Photographic Education West Conference in 2008. Recently the Magenta Foundation selected him as one of the U.S. winners for its Flash Forward — Emerging Artists 2011 exhibition.

CCA's Graduate Program in Fine Arts

Central to CCA's Graduate Program in Fine Arts curriculum is the idea that developing a sustained, critical practice is an essential part of creating a dynamic career as a professional artist. Students gain a deeper understanding of their own ideas and practice, to gain greater awareness of the global context of contemporary art, and to develop skills in presentation needed to pursue a career in the visual arts. Learn more, including how to apply »