Michael Garcia approached ArtSugar with an idea: to sell an artwork by his friend Olivia Gonzales and donate a percentage of the proceeds to the Matthew Shepard Foundation, an organization he is deeply involved with and motivated by.
Michael notes: "I was 14 years old when I was kicked out of my home for being gay. I was bullied most of my middle school years. I had to learn how to survive and take care of myself at a young age. I had to rely on the kindness of friends and often strangers to get by. It’s organizations like the Matthew Shepard Foundation that help someone in a dark place find the light and support their needs. The MSF helped me realize that I wasn’t different and I was the same as everyone around me. I’m thankful to share my story and to work with the MSF. Knowing that sharing my story can help inspire youth and show them they are not alone is the greatest benefit I could ever ask for."
MSF's longstanding mission is to erase hate by replacing it with understanding, compassion and acceptance. Through local, regional and national outreach, they empower individuals to find their voice to create change and challenge communities to identify and address hate that lives within their schools, neighborhoods and homes. Michael's work is an extension of Matthew’s passion to foster a more caring and just world. They share his story and embody his vigor for civil rights to change the hearts and minds of others to accept everyone as they are.
To give some background: on October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, was brutally attacked and tied to a fence in a field outside of Laramie, Wyo. and left to die. On October 12, Matt succumbed to his wounds in a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. In the aftermath of Matt’s death, Judy and Dennis Shepard started the Matthew Shepard Foundation to honor his life and aspirations. Because of the tragedy endured by the Shepards, the beginning principle of the Foundation was to teach parents with children who may be questioning their sexuality to love and accept them for who they are, and to not throw them away. Through her personal appearances across the country and around the world, Judy Shepard shares Matt’s story to highlight the importance of standing up for the LGBTQ community.
ArtSugar is also honored to collaborate with Michael and MSF selling Olivia's beautiful artwork for this most important cause. We have truly enjoyed working with the organization to bring Michael's idea to light.
"The Matthew Shepard Foundation is incredibly lucky to have such wonderful ambassadors. Michael and Olivia's commitment to helping us erase hate is unparalleled and we are thankful for their support. The message in Olivia's print is clear: all hearts beat the same. We all deserve to be loved and be able to love, no matter a person's gender, sexuality, race, religion, or creed. This is exactly what the Foundation stands for. Many thanks to ArtSugar for believing in giving back to the communities that need it most and supporting artists who want to give back, as well. Your work helps to make ours possible." - Sara Grossman, Communications Manager of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
On the work Olivia Gonzales created for this project, the artist writes: "I love to incorporate powerful messages that are current to issues going on in society into my artwork. In my opinion, it is so important to use your talents to help others in any way that you can. I was extremely excited to team up with the Matthew Shepard Foundation for this piece. Their work to build a better world and community through love and acceptance is truly inspiring. This piece uses repetition to display multiple hearts. This is to show that all hearts are the same. Your race, your gender, your sexuality do not and should not matter when it comes to equality. Underneath our outer appearances we are the same and should be treated so. The splatters across the identical hearts show that even though we are all equals we are still individuals and you should never be ashamed or embarrassed to embrace who you are. The one big heart in the middle symbolizes the fact that we need to come together as one. There are so many different groups of people fighting for the same cause. Rather than fighting for your own, we need to all support and fight for one another."