Queer Orientation is an annual tri-campus event that offers LGBTQ-focused programming over the course of one week. This year’s Queer Orientation at UTM continued with Arts and Crafts, an event hosted by UTMSU and [email protected] last Monday.

Located in the Presentation Room of the Student Centre, Arts and Crafts was an intimate gathering. It featured groups of friends who sat around a table in the company of canvases, paint, and cookies.

“First impression: very welcoming,” says Sam Hill, a first-year art and art history student. “I felt like they all were very open to new students to make them feel comfortable.”

While the week’s events are open to everybody, Hill is one of many first-year students that Queer Orientation focuses their events on.

“I’m glad that these spaces exist, because it allows queer students to mingle and see all the different representations of gender and sexualities that exist on the campus,” Hill says.

With the classic prompt to “paint our feelings,” the small group I was a part of worked on pieces ranging from our childhood to experimental portraits.

Roya Ghahremani, a fourth-year psychology student and the executive director of [email protected], says that Arts and Crafts was “a way to escape that everyday bustle and negativity that we are exposed to, and take a bit of time off our busy days to reconnect with one another and ourselves—and what better way to do that then with art, which we have so little opportunity for these days.”

“The goal this year is to create an environment where LGBTQ students feel comfortable and welcomed, and that they are supported and welcomed, and that this is their campus as much as anyone else’s,” Ghahremani continues. “By getting involved with us, people can feel they are contributing to the creation and spread of that positive space, as well as find a place they can come to at the end of the day to feel accepted, no matter who they are.”

This year, [email protected] aims to conduct more outreach activities through collaborations with the equity department. An initiative both these organizations are working on is the Equity Service Centre, which aims to centralize most of the positive spaces around campus, such as the Food Centre, all in one building.