The LGBT Center OC is expanding with a second location in SanTana called the Brad Brafford LGBT Center on Fourth that will focus on LGBTQ art, culture, and lives. It includes a gallery space highlighting the work of LGBTQ artists and topics, adult education classes for LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ members alike, and will also be used for live community events.
The new center will focus on reaching out to LGBTQ populations the organization wasn't able to reach with their first location, which focused exclusively on providing social services and programming for LGBTQ members covering mental health, HIV, youth experiences and advocacy. After doing extensive research on opening a new center, the LGBT Center OC team drew inspiration from LGBTQ centers in other parts of California like Los Angeles and San Diego that had gallery spaces and focused on art and education.
"The opening of this site has been one of my dreams for a while," says Kevin O' Grady, executive director of LGBT Center OC and longtime human rights activist. "Before, you'd have to go to Los Angeles or San Diego to get something like this."
A major component of the new center will be on adult education. "We wanted to have offerings that would be clear that you could come to a safe LGBT space and take, say, same-sex ballroom dancing," O' Grady explains. Theater dance, jewelry-making, and poetry writing are only a few of the many classes currently offered at the center.
O' Grady believes this new center will positively affect LGBTQ members who may not feel safe in their communities, even if they're protected by California law. Many members of the LGBTQ community in Orange County, he says, remain closeted.
"There is religious conservatism that definitely bleeds into workplaces in Orange County, and we have lots of LGBTQ people who say 'I'm afraid of losing my job," O 'Grady explains. "While there definitely are corporations that are forward-thinking, there are a vast majority of corporations where LGBT members still feel unsafe. On top of that, there is the political conservatism and we also have minority communities here that, for their own cultural reasons, makes it difficult for members to come out. For all those reasons, a lot of people struggle here."
Though the new center bears "LGBT" in its name, O' Grady makes it clear that it's a place for all community members to come together. He and his team have plans to do something connected to the Latino community in the future and reserve a space in their building for grassroot groups.
The Brad Brafford LGBT Center on Fourth officially opened on May 30 and is hosting an open house for the community to check out the new space on Saturday, June 6, coinciding with Art Walk. Come check out their current exhibit "We're Here, We're Queer," which features submitted work from OC and LA-based artists, and their classes are currently free until July 1 so RSVP if you want to try them out.
The Brad Brafford LGBT Center on Fourth is located at 305 E. 4th St., Ste 200, Santa Ana. You can reach them at (714) 953-5428 or lgbtcenteroc.org.