On a cold, Saturday night at the garage of the Los Angeles College of Music, the student group Level Ground sought to bring LGBT students and churchgoers together in an open dialogue about the intersection of faith, gender, and sexuality through the use of art.
Level Ground started in early 2012 as a LGBT student group, called One Table, at Fuller Theological Seminary. In just its opening year, One Table hosted Gene Robinson and his documentary film “Love Free or Die.” One Table also held monthly dinners where students gathered to exchange ideas about the relationship between sexuality and religion. In March of that year, it also developed the first faith-based LGBT film festival, showing renowned films and inviting directors, actors, and professors as guest speakers.
As the audience for One Table grew larger and larger, executive directors Samantha Curley and Chelsea McInturff were motivated to expand the organization on an international scale. Thus Level Ground has performed in over seven major cities in both the United States and Canada.
“When we decided to expand the organization, we also decided to rename the group ‘Level Ground’, which comes from a prophecy in the book of Isaiah in the Bible. The name embodies a space where we descend from our mountains and climb out of the valleys to meet one another on sacred, though likely uncomfortable, level ground,” said Curely. “To me, the name carries significance because it means leaving behind our egos and selfish selves to connect with one another on an equal and respectable manner, which is what Level Ground strives to do.”
Visual and performing arts are central in Level Ground. Artists of the night included Brian Behm, Jessica Lyn Johnson, Don Nocon, Scott Turner Schofield, Mac Shannon, Noel Suarez, and Mandi Rice, all of whom have some sort of connection to Christianity and the LGBT cause. Their performances ranged from storytelling, dancing, singing, and painting.
“Emily Dickson always said that the role of art is to speak the truth but to do so with a slant,” McInturff says, explaining the importance of art. “Art bridges differences- connecting individuals of different backgrounds and experiences with something truly universal. The performances shown tonight might be packed with emotion and sometimes controversial, but they all tell the truth.”
The event lasted for about two hours, and it was followed by a discussion over free beer and wine. Overall, the reception to the entire show was quite positive.
“I never knew art could be so profound in uniting people from different backgrounds, so I really appreciate Level Ground for showing to me this,” said Nick Davis, an attendant of the event. “I would definitely consider going back to the show next year.”