Student-Made "It Gets Better: CCA" Exemplifies Making Art that Matters

"A Great Day in San Francisco" [photo: Chris Nickel]

California College of the Arts proudly announces the release of It Gets Better: CCA, the official college submission in the It Gets Better Project, a national gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth suicide-prevention campaign. CCA is among the first art colleges to create an institutional video for the internationally recognized project.

And, fittingly, the release announcement coincides with the first National Gay/Straight Alliance Day.

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 the project espouses is to remind teenagers in the LGBTQ community they are not alone -- it will get better.

Diversity at CCA

The video project supports CCA's ongoing commitment to increasing diversity at CCA and is aligned with the goals set forth by the President's Diversity Steering Group. It Gets Better: CCA was produced by the Communications Office under the direction of Senior Marketing Manager Clay Walsh, Web Editor and Content Manager Jim Norrena, and Communications Associate Sarah Owens. The 24 subjects in the video represent a diverse cross-section (gender, age, ethnicity) of the CCA community.

The Making of "It Gets Better: CCA"

The seven-minute video was filmed and edited by Photography student Yoni Klein, with animated graphics provided by Graphic Design student Nicholas Navarro. (Additional filming support was provided by Sabrina Wong and Film student Christal Collins.) The video features CCA students, alumni, faculty, and staff sharing personal anecdotes about the hardships of coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, or queer (LGBTQ) persons, while contrasting those struggles with the benefits of living openly today.

The following CCA administrative offices were instrumental in helping develop the project:

  • Office of the President
  • Academic Affairs
  • Alumni Association
  • Office of Student Affairs

CCA Participants

Our appreciation goes out to all the participants who appear in the video for bravely sharing their personal and inspiring stories:

Students
Kimberly Bainum, Sergi Calavia, Rayniel Estrella, Nicholas Navarro, Minnie Phan, Parker Tilghman

Alumni
Max Batt (Graphic Design 2011), Johnny Paul Vera (Fashion Design 2011), Jessica Silverman (MA Curatorial Practice 2007)

Faculty
Ila Berman, Claire Chafee, Tirza Latimer, Emily McVarish, Tina Takemoto

Staff
Julie Caffey, Noel Dahl, Sarah Garmisa, Hillary Kantmann, Manuel Manuedo, David Morini (Writing 2008), Jim Norrena (Writing 2013), Dustin Smith, Clay Walsh

Special thanks to Film chair Rob Epstein who served as the unofficial advisor; to Four Tet (Kieran Hebden), who generously allowed the use of his song, "She Just Likes to Fight"; and Painting/Drawing chair Kim Anno, who encouraged the use of footage taken at the project "A Great Day in San Francisco."

About the It Gets Better Project

It Gets Better Project was founded in September 2010 by nationally syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, who together made the inaugural "It Gets Better" YouTube video in response to a marked increase in teen suicides, as reported in national media coverage.

In the video, which at the time of this post has 1,697,021 views, Savage and Miller offer personal advice and implore young queers in emotional distress to seek help via The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (or queer) youth, and GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network), the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students.

Due to Savage and Miller's successful video, they founded the It Gets Better Project and today the project boasts having amassed an estimated 40,000 videos viewed more than 40 million times! The project recently announced its online efforts will be translated into more than 15 languages to continue its efforts globally.

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 Gap, Google, Facebook, Pixar, the Broadway community, and many more . . . including CCA!

CCA's Other "It Gets Better" Video

Not surprisingly, CCA is linked to another equally unique "It Gets Better" video. Alumnus Jason Hanasik (MFA Fine Arts 2009) shot, directed, and edited the official "It Gets Better" video for Gap Inc., which was the first video of its kind by a major national retailer.

Read the feature »

Bay Area Offers Good Fit

The Bay Area -- in particular San Francisco -- offers a supportive community in which diversity is more likely to be celebrated than feared. It Gets Better: CCA highlights the college as a place where young art enthusiasts can expect to find an education as well as a home. Said Kimberly Bainum (Film 2012): "If you're homophobic at CCA, you're the one who needs to stay in the closet!"

The most comprehensive national research of its kind to date, The 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People documents the experiences of nearly 6,000 students, faculty, staff, and administrators who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender at colleges and universities across the United States. The results point to significant harassment of LGBT students and a lack of safety and inclusiveness that exists on campuses across the country.

Read more »

According to The Trevor Project, "More than 34,000 people die by suicide each year," making it "the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds with lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth attempting suicide up to four times more than their heterosexual peers."

Furthermore, The Suicide Prevention Resource Center estimates that between 30 and 40 percent of LGBT youth, depending on age and sex groups, have attempted suicide.

A Great Day in San Francisco

At the conclusion of It Gets Better: CCA are scenes from the making of "A Great Day in San Francisco," which is a tribute to the famous 1958 photograph taken by Art Kane, called "A Great Day in Harlem." The original photograph captured 57 of the great jazz musicians all standing together in front of a brownstone in Harlem.

Inspired by the photo, Painting/Drawing chair Kim Anno called upon CCA's LGBT community to re-create the artistic endeavor with a similar vision of hope and respect. The photo was taken by Photography studio manager Chris Nickel.

Screening & Panel Discussion

Friday, February 3, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Timken Lecture Hall (San Francisco campus)
CCA's Queer/Straight Alliance (QSA) is planning a celebration reception in honor of the video's completion at which It Gets Better: CCA will be screened several times. A moderated panel discussion featuring participants from the video, including the filmmaker, will follow each screening to engage the audience in a discussion about the importance of this project as well as other topics related to the queer community at CCA.

Out-Takes (pun intended!)

Read additional commentary from several It Gets Better: CCA participants:

Tina Takemoto: "In high school, I felt so isolated and different that I was convinced I wouldn’t live to be 21. At the time, I couldn’t connect this feeling to being queer, but I just couldn’t imagine ever feeling comfortable with myself in the world. I figured I didn’t belong in the world. It turns out that I just didn’t belong in my hometown. After I left home, things started getting better."

Tirza Latimer: "I did not expect the experience to be so moving. The interview brought into focus parts of my life, my past as a queer, that usually seem so distant. As a result, a strong and somewhat surprising bond of empathy formed on the spot with the producers, other participants, and anonymous young queers the project addresses."

Dustin Smith: "Being apart of this video means so much to me. I was one of those kids living in the Midwest in a small town where I felt like I had no one to turn to most of my high school years. I was teased and bullied on a regular bases, but I believed in myself and knew I would overcome it and I believe that is what is most important for the LGBT youth to know. Believe in yourself. It's rough out there, it does get better, but only if you truly believe in yourself and know that you are better than how those immature people see you.

"I recently stood with one of my best friend's in her wedding as her man-of-honor and in October I will be standing with another one of my best friends in a gay wedding. Today, especially after doing this video, I look back on those years of bullying and see it as a building block of who I am and it has certainly made me stronger."

Minnie Phan: "A true inspiration! I hope this reaches the hearts and minds of many people!"

We do, too, Minnie! Thanks for being a part of CCA's history!