Today, I had the opportunity to interview Robert Hensley, who will be telling his story as part of an upcoming evening of The Lotus, a program of Arts Out Loud. Robert currently lives in LA, but was born and raised in the Ohiopyle area close to Pittsburgh.

This is from the Arts Out Loud site:

Arts Out Loud is a Pittsburgh based organization that aims to empower young people living in our under-resourced communities through the arts, while providing artists who live and work here with the tools to develop unique projects and teaching opportunities that emphasize community engagement and youth empowerment.

And here is what they say about this awesome program, The Lotus:

Introducing a new series from Arts Out Loud called The Lotus that gives you the power to tell your own personal story to members of the LGBT and allies community—your community. This isn’t a lecture or a TED talk or even a Slam. There won’t be scripts, notes, or Powerpoint slides. It’s just you, a mic, an audience, and your life experience.

I asked Robert to tell me about growing up in a small town, here in Pennsylvania. “There was never a moment, where I felt that I fit in,” he said– a sentiment that many LGBTQIA youth can probably identify with. So, what do you do with that, and how do you use that experience to make the most and get the type of life you want?

Robert sees telling his story, and the Lotus project as a continuation of the It Gets Better effort. The base premise of It Gets Better is the message to hold on and hang in there till you are old enough to get out on your own, because it (life) really does get better, a concept that many LGBTQIA youth have trouble believing in. But the message, to just hang in there, isn’t enough, and by telling our stories, we can share with youth how we made it through the rough years, and inspire them and empower them to do the same. Robert hopes his story is both entertaining as well as inspiring, and based on our brief chat, I think it will be both.

Robert experienced a lot of bullying from other kids, and a week after his high school graduation, picked up and moved to LA to pursue his dreams of a creative career. “Too often,” he says, “youth can get bogged down in struggle and strife, and fail to see there is a bigger world of opportunity out there beyond their local community.” In the Uniontown area, there were few resources and no real resources for LGBTQIA persons. Its easy in those circumstances to not find help. If you don’t know what you are looking for, its hard to find it. “By sharing stories with youth, we can let them know how we made it, and how to take the pain and use it to set yourself up for the future,” says Robert.

I asked Robert, what would be one thing his adult self would say to his youth self. He thought for a minute and replied, “Put down the cookie.”

Im sure you will be in for a treat that is entertaining and insightful, so please check out Robert Hensley at The Lotus!

The Lotus in Pittsburgh, PA

July 24th

Undercroft Gallery

First Unitarian Church


More about the Lotus:

Arts Out Loud on Facebook:


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