CARBONDALE — Local artist Brad Reed Nelson is hoping to take his grassroots human rights campaign to one of the biggest stages in the world at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, next month.
The campaign’s message is one that resonates and is worthy of sharing locally as much as abroad, he said.
In light of recent Russian laws aimed at curbing public gay pride events, including during the Olympics, Reed Nelson, who owns the product design company Board by Design in Carbondale, started what he calls the Straighten Out the Rainbow campaign.
“The mission of the campaign is to help prompt a conversation about straightening out our perceptions, our fears and our inequality, particularly concerning homophobia,” according to Reed Nelson.
“It’s a matter of human rights, and that everyone deserves to be treated the same,” he said.
A primary goal is to simply raise awareness around the issue of human rights in general, and to act on a local and global level.
An event at Carbondale Beer Works Thursday night will help raise money for organizations and efforts that support the LGBT community locally.
Last spring, before the new Russian laws were passed and the Olympic connection came about, Reed Nelson had begun working on a design depicting two bears pulling on a rainbow in an effort to straighten it out.
The rainbow is a universal symbol for gay pride, and, though he wasn’t thinking about it at the time, the bear is a widely used symbol for Russia dating back several centuries.
Reed Nelson has since refined his Russian Bear-Bow logo, which depicts a pair of bears clad in Russian attire attempting to straighten out a rainbow. The logo is being sold on T-shirts to support the cause.
“It’s a provoking conversation when people see it and ask what it means,” said Reed Nelson, who has shared the design with some friends of his who are gay to get their reaction.
Several Olympic-bound athletes have already lent their support to the cause, and plan to wear the T-shirts.
They include 20 members of the U.S. and Canadian men’s ski teams, Nordic skier Simi Hamilton of Aspen and his family, and former Olympic ski medalists Deb Armstrong and Christin Cooper, who will be one of the NBC ski analysts in Sochi. She won’t be wearing the shirt while on the air, Reed Nelson clarified.
The event tonight at Beer Works is the first public unveiling of the T-shirt, which will be sold to raise money for the campaign and to support related causes locally.
Four dollars from each T-shirt sold at this and other upcoming local events will go toward the purchase of the book, “It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living.”
Carbondale resident Janet Gordon, a longtime counselor in the valley and part owner of Beer Works, said she intends to distribute the books in local libraries and schools.
“I was talking with a friend yesterday about the struggle of LGBT youth here, and the fears the kids have about coming out,” Gordon said. “We think we live in such an accepting and open place, and on one hand we do, but bullying and discrimination happens here just like everywhere else.
“There are not many local resources in the valley for LGBT youth,” she added. “This book provides them with the positive messages and sense of community that they are often lacking.”