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The art's the thing: Gay and Lesbian Alliance Center volunteer unites community through art

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Tina is a diva who wears tall red high heels, lots of lipstick, and tops that definitely put “the girls” front and center. She’s not what most people think of as the typical lesbian, but she’s written a book on how to be one.

Tina is also totally not real. She’s a character that Ethel Landers made up and would perform during improv skits at Gay and Lesbian Alliance Center events when she first moved to San Luis Obispo about 30 years ago.

“One of our main goals then was to provide social situations for people,” Landers said. “Sometimes we struggle with relevance because we are accepted more mainstream now than we were 30 years ago. And because of that, there’s not such a great need to have, say, an all women’s dance or a private place where you can go and be with your partner.”

CHICKEN, IT’S WHAT’S FOR ART:  Ethel Landers, the volunteer art gallery curator for the GALA Center in San Luis Obispo, stands by her oil painting, Lost it in a tiff, which features a chicken that has lost a feather. The piece is currently hanging in the gallery on Palm Street. - PHOTO BY DYLAN HONEA-BAUMANN
  • PHOTO BY DYLAN HONEA-BAUMANN
  • CHICKEN, IT’S WHAT’S FOR ART: Ethel Landers, the volunteer art gallery curator for the GALA Center in San Luis Obispo, stands by her oil painting, Lost it in a tiff, which features a chicken that has lost a feather. The piece is currently hanging in the gallery on Palm Street.

Today Landers serves as the art curator for the GALA Center Gallery, working to bring in art that unites the gay, lesbian, and trans communities with the general population. She’s held the job for the past year and before that served on GALA’s board. She’s also volunteered with the Santa Maria Humane Society. In the weeks leading up the opening of a new art show, Landers can easily spend 40 hours a week promoting and organizing for the gallery.

“We want new art all the time, and we want something that hasn’t been shown at least for the last two years,” Landers said. “And then on top of that, we want to do our best to support the LGBT community. I really, really want to get a transgender show. However, that’s tough. You have to find enough people who are artists and find enough people who are confident enough to show their work and be here with it.”

- ART FOR ALL	 :  The You’ll Love Our Art show is currently hanging at the GALA Center Gallery, located at 1060 Palm St., in San Luis Obispo, now until Jan. 23. The gallery is open from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday. It is also open the first Friday of each month from 6 to 9 p.m. for Art After Dark. -
  • ART FOR ALL : The You’ll Love Our Art show is currently hanging at the GALA Center Gallery, located at 1060 Palm St., in San Luis Obispo, now until Jan. 23. The gallery is open from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday. It is also open the first Friday of each month from 6 to 9 p.m. for Art After Dark.

Landers previously worked in pubic relations before retiring at age 46 and putting herself through art school at Cal Poly. In addition to volunteering at the GALA Center, she also has a home art studio in Nipomo that she shares with other artists. Her favorite medium is oil painting and she often paints chickens, an animal near to Landers’ heart. One of her oil paintings, Lost it in a tiff,  which features a chicken that has lost a feather, is currently hanging in the center’s latest exhibit, You’ll Love Our Art.

“It’s more of a spiritual experience for me to do art,” Landers said. “It’s kind of like life, it’s a journey.”

Landers said her motivations for volunteering are twofold. 

“You’re not only making a difference with the organization, but the biggest impact is with yourself. Because as you give, you receive. When you get into your ’60s and ’70s, sometimes you feel like, ‘Do I have anything left to offer?’ And you do. You really do, because of your life experience and it’s so vitally needed because so many good organizations have such limited funding to pay someone to do what you may be able to do.” 

Ryah Cooley wants to check out your art at rcooley@newtimesslo.com.

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