The Attic launches new arts program to foster young LGBTQ performers

Performers at the March 30 showcase. (Photo by Kelly Burkhardt.)

The Attic Youth Center (The Attic), Philadelphia’s only organization exclusively serving LGBTQ youth, announced the formation of the Jake Snipes Performing Arts Program, an initiative that will prioritize arts-based programming to provide LGBTQ+ youth with tools to build self-confidence, self- esteem, and growth. The program will also foster opportunities for creative expression to help LGBTQ+ youth heal, experience joy, and thrive.

Jake Snipes was a native of Montgomery County and came to Philadelphia to earn his Masters in Computer Engineering at UPenn. He then embarked to California for a career in video game production. He passed away in 2020 at the age of 24. Now, three years after Snipes’ death, a new tribute to his memory will serve queer youth in Philadelphia. His name, and love of performance, will live on. 

“We wanted to support queer performing arts because it was something so central to Jake’s life and to continue the tradition in the queer community…that Jake felt so strongly about,” Sam Handrick, Snipes’ partner, shared in a press release. “Jake wanted to reduce the suffering that many LGBTQ+ youth experience growing up, and he believed in the theater as a place to create community and find healing.”

This year, 10 youth members of the newly formed arts program performed in a March 30 showcase at William Way LGBT Community Center featuring drag, spoken word, dance, and vocal performances by. The Attic anticipates more performance showcase events throughout the year. Around 30 LGBTQ+ youth attend the performing arts groups on a regular basis. 

One of the performers at the March 30 showcase. (Photo by Kelly Burkhardt.)

“Since The Attic values accessibility to programming, participants do not need to enroll or register to join a group as long as they are in our 14 to 23 age range,” said Jasper Liem, LCSW, Executive Director of The Attic. 

As summer approaches, programs such as these are a great, interactive, and healthy way for local queer youth to find activities in an emphatic community. Liem said that The Attic has always sought to nurture LGBTQ+ young people who wish to “take to the stage.” 

“The Attic has had a variety of performing arts groups and programming since our first “Thespians and Drama Queens” improv troupe in 1994,” Liem said. “Over the years, Attic youth have used performance as a medium to comment on social justice, uplift marginalized identities, and speak up on political issues.”

Not only will Snipes’ name live on in the form of the performing arts program but also in the form of an annual award. Each year “The Attic will present the Jake Snipes Award to an Attic youth who demonstrates leadership, initiative, and artistic innovation. As the Jake Snipes Performing Arts Program evolves over time, expect to see more frequent and larger events as well as opportunities for youth to pursue their artistic dreams.”

To that goal, an endowment of $200,000 has been made to make sure Jake Snipes will support young performers for many years to come.  

For those who follow video games, they may have come across articles about a touching tribute placed by Snipes’ partner Handrick into a game called “God of War Ragnarok.” A rainbow fire warms the path of those who complete a sidequest in the game. 

“This fire never stops burning,” Handrick posted on Twitter about Snipes’ legacy. “Through the coldest days, through the nights you don’t want to live through. It will stand in this world we @SonySantaMonica created for all of time, carrying the story of a man in whom I found something unnamable. Something I still carry now.”

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