Cleveland Heights--A group seeking a domestic partner registry in Cleveland Heights filed their proposed ordinance with the city March 11 and may now begin collecting petition signatures.
The measure would be the first domestic partner registry in Ohio and the first in the nation created by a ballot initiative.
It would allow couples, same-sex and opposite-sex, to register with the city by filing a Declaration of Domestic Partnership and paying a fee to cover the cost of the registry.
Neither partner may be married or in a civil union or domestic partnership with a third person. The applicants must be at least 18 and not related by blood.
The partnership may be terminated by notifying the city and the other partner, or when one partner dies.
The proposed registry would be open to both residents and non-residents of the city. It would also honor domestic partnerships registered in other places.
Heights Families for Equality, who is sponsoring the measure, initially came together to block attempts to repeal city workers’ same-sex partner benefits that council enacted in April 2002. Repeal backers failed to gather enough signatures to put the benefits on the ballot.
So far, there is no organized opposition to the proposed registry.
Tracie Moore, who spoke for the repeal backers last year said her group, Families First, is still viable, but has not decided what to do about the registry.
“Individual members are not happy with it,” said Moore, “but we’re not doing anything at this time. When the petitions are filed, we will see how it plays out.”
Heights Families for Equality has no time limit to gather the required 3,570 signatures, but it hopes to collect them by midsummer in order to have the initiative on the ballot in November.
HFE chair David Caldwell said the ordinance was drafted with the help of lawyers who are expert in domestic partner benefits in general and Ohio and Cleveland Heights law in particular.
Caldwell, Doug Braun, Keli Zehnder, Kay Heylman, and Nancy Thrams make up the petition committee required by law. Each signed the form in front of notary Judy Hayes in the City Hall atrium before presenting the document to Council Clerk Thomas Malone.
Zehnder signed while holding her eight-day-old daughter Audrey. She said the registry would be “one more piece of paper in the legal history” of her relationship with her partner Deborah Smith.
Heylman, who is caring for her husband with Parkinson’s disease, said she has been a Cleveland Heights resident since 1956. She is involved with the effort because she loves Cleveland Heights and wants to help the community live up to its reputation as a progressive, diverse community.
Domestic partner registries are in effect in 60 cities and the states of California and Hawaii.
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Cleveland Heights has the highest percentage of unmarried partner households, both same-sex and opposite-sex, of all Ohio cities with more than 10,000 people. The city’s 970 domestic partners comprise 2% of all households.
Gay-inclusive measure violates Cincinnati’s Article 12, say the article’s backers
Cincinnati--Two members of the group that backed an anti-gay charter amendment ten years ago have taken the first step to suing the city over its new gay-inclusive hate crime ordinance.
The pair says that the ordinance, passed by council on February 5, violates Article 12 of the city charter.
In a letter dated March 12, attorney David Langdon notified Cincinnati City Solicitor J. Rita McNeil of his clients’ intent to sue if she does not stop the new ordinance from taking effect.
Ohio law requires this notification before suing a city. In this case, the city can either ask the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court to prevent the ordinance from taking effect, or state their refusal to do so, allowing a suit to go forward.
The letter is written on behalf of Thomas E. Brinkman, Jr. and Mark W. Miller of Equal Rights Not Special Rights, which was formed to spearhead the Issue 3 initiative in 1993. Passed by voters, the issue became Article 12, prohibiting the city from enacting any law protecting gay, lesbian or bisexual citizens.
Brinkman and Miller are the only two Equal Rights Not Special Rights principals and Issue 3 petitioners that are still taxpayers in the city and have the legal standing to sue it, Langdon said.
“If you pass this ordinance, you will be sued,” Phil Burress told city council at a February 4 hearing on the hate crime measure. He organized Equal Rights Not Special Rights and also leads the anti-gay Citizens for Community Values in suburban Sharonville.
The letter states, “Among other faults, the law is in contravention of the City of Cincinnati Charter and unconstitutionally vague.” The group asks McNeil to prevent the city from “further abuse of its corporate powers.”
McNeil and her predecessor Fay D. Dupuis issued separate opinions at council’s request in February and May, 1999. Both said that a hate crime ordinance that included sexual orientation would not violate Article 12 since the measure is directed at criminals, not their gay or lesbian victims.
Attorneys who testified before council on behalf of the ordinance said they agreed with the solicitors’ opinions.
A lawsuit against the hate crime ordinance would be opened up to include Article 12 itself, the ordinance’s sponsor told the Gay People’s Chronicle.
“If they litigate, the city will order its attorneys to re-litigate the constitutionality of Article 12 as well as defend this ordinance,” said council member John Cranley.
Langdon said the suit will move forward as soon as the city responds to his letter. He expects the case will ultimately be decided by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Columbus—With a soft economy causing donations to drop, the Stonewall Columbus Community Center has consolidated two full-time staff positions into a single one to save money. But the organization is still developing new programs.
Business manager L. Paul Miller left the organization in September. Education and outreach coordinator Angie Welman left in January.
Their two positions have been replaced with a new center coordinator. That position was filled by Kellye Pinkleton, who has been with the center since 2001 as a part-time staff assistant and administrative coordinator.
Stonewall now has three full-time employees: Pinkleton, executive director Kate Anderson and development director Patrick Galloway.
The decision to reorganize comes as the center waits for approval of a $40,000 grant from the city of Columbus.
Anderson said that the decision was not an easy one, but it was necessary to meet a budget shortfall.
The recession has caused donations to drop for all non-profit organizations, not just LGBT ones.
“We are seeing a 16 percent decrease in revenues this year compared with 2002,” Anderson said.
Anderson recommended hiring an accounting firm to do the bookkeeping work and spreading the other day-to-day duties over the remaining staff. The board supported the changes unanimously.
Board president Rob Berger said that the board worked through consensus to reach a decision.
“By the time it came to the board, it had gone through the appropriate committees,” Berger said. “No one was shocked or surprised by the decision to reorganize.”
Pinkleton began working as the center coordinator on February 14. She will also be working on educational programs. Before she was put on contract in 2001, Pinkleton was an active volunteer for three years.
“I will be able to have a lot more hands-on experience,” she said. “One of the things we want to look at is the volunteer training. It needs to be updated and revised.”
Anderson said that as center coordinator, Pinkleton would manage the Stonewall Community Center, tend to its schedule, and handle the annual Lavender Listings, a business directory for the LGBT community.
Berger said that the board felt very positive about the move to hire Pinkleton full-time.
“The board was thrilled that she was interested in taking a full-time position based upon her past performance,” he said. “Kellye is an outstanding employee who has the ability to handle a lot of different projects.”
Amid these changes, Stonewall has actively continued to develop programs, including two new initiatives.
The first is a Race Relations Project with the YWCA, which will begin March 27. Over the course of six sessions, staff, volunteers, community members and leaders will discuss ways to better provide services across race and ethnicity.
“The first session will be a kind of needs assessment,” Anderson said. “We need to look at Stonewall itself and see where we are not being effective.”
Other sessions will call for honest criticism of the LGBT community. In the second half, participants will develop an action plan for how to combat racism within the community.
The second initiative is a rural outreach program focused on lesbian health issues, specifically breast cancer. Tentatively scheduled for April, Stonewall aims to partner with the American Cancer Association and the Columbus Health Department, but the initiative will continue regardless of their support.
Focus groups will be conducted in people’s homes to ensure confidentiality.
“Ten days at the State Fair each year is simply not enough outreach to rural areas,” Anderson said.
With support from Internet news source Out in Columbus, Stonewall has added two Internet-linked computers. The “Cyber Center” will eventually add a printer and a third computer with a variety of software.
“It’s a great service in that people have a place to go and job search, look for housing, find out about resources, and eventually print documents,” Pinkleton said.
Warren, Ohio--A Cincinnati anti-gay group has asked a court to allow them to oppose the appeal of a heterosexual couple denied marriage because one is transsexual.
Cincinnati anti-gay attorney David Langdon filed a friend-of-the-court brief March 3 in opposition to the marriage. He represents Citizens for Community Values of Cincinnati and a local minister.
Langdon joins the original judge in the case who, in an unusual move, has also asked to be allowed to oppose the couple.
The Ohio Eleventh District Court of Appeals must decide if anyone will oppose the appeal of Jacob B. Nash and Erin A. Barr of Warren.
Trumbull County Probate Judge Thomas A. Swift has twice denied the couple a marriage license because Nash is a female-to-male transsexual.
Swift only knew Nash is transsexual because he granted the name change from Pamela to Jacob in 1999 after Nash’s reassignment surgery.
Langdon’s brief, accompanied by a motion asking the court’s permission to participate in oral argument, is on behalf of CCV and Rev. David R. Black.
Black is pastor of the Cavalry and Covenant Presbyterian churches in Warren.
The Cincinnati group jumps into cases on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights throughout the state, always opposing GLBT equality. Langdon represents them in these cases.
Langdon entered a friend-of-the-court brief against Nash and Barr’s marriage in the original hearing last year, but Swift did not allow him to appear in court. Langdon represented Black and CCV then, also.
This time, in a very unusual situation, the appeals court will need to decide if anyone can act in opposition to the marriage.
Generally, marriages are “ex parte,” meaning that the couple is the only party involved.
Both Langdon and Macedonia attorney Deborah A. Smith, who represents the couple, agree that Judge Swift’s motion to oppose the marriage is inappropriate.
Smith filed a motion March 11 to strike Swift’s move. As the trial judge in the case, she says, he has no standing to join it. At press time, she was preparing a motion to strike Langdon’s as well.
Langdon called Swift’s brief “shocking,” adding, “In my opinion, [Swift] acted improperly.”
But Langdon also believes that if the appeals court strikes Swift’s brief, it will make it more likely that they will accept his.
Langdon persuaded the Ohio Supreme Court to allow him to oppose two name-change cases and a shared parenting case last year, also normally “ex parte” matters, on behalf of anti-gay groups.
Langdon lost all three of those cases.
But “From the court’s perspective,” he said, “they say: what does [having opposition] hurt?”
Langdon said he and his clients are willing to accept same-sex marriages involving transgender people marrying someone who was born the opposite sex, not the sex they assume, as the trade for stopping transsexuals from marrying based on their modified sex.
In such an arrangement, Smith is married to attorney Randi Barnabee, a woman born male.
“Sex for the purposes of marriage should be based on birth sex, not modified sex,” said Langdon. “I’m troubled by the idea of transsexuals. We need to be bound by the principle that sex is determined by the creator at birth.”
Cincinnati--The original backers of Article 12 have asked a federal judge for the right to intervene in a suit against the city by a transsexual police officer.
Officer Philicia Barnes won a $320,000 discrimination suit against the city February 27. She had been demoted from sergeant after transitioning from male.
During the trial, it was shown that Article 12, which prohibits any ordinance protecting gays, lesbians, or bisexuals, had become the default employment policy of the city since no other one existed and there was no training.
As part of the suit, Barnes is now asking the city for reinstatement to sergeant. Included is a request that U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott stop the city from enforcing Article 12.
Equal Rights Not Special Rights was formed in 1993 to back the Issue 3 initiative that became Article 12. Their attorney, David Langdon, filed a motion with Dlott on March 11 to oppose Barnes.
Langdon’s motion was filed on behalf of the group and its members Thomas E. Brinkman and Mark Miller, the only two Issue 3 petitioners still living in Cincinnati.
The next day, the same trio notified the city they are suing it over a new hate crime ordinance. (See story page 1.)
During Barnes’ trial, her attorney Al Gerhardstein had an organizational psychologist testify that an ordinary reading of Article 12 suggests that intentional discrimination against GLBT people is acceptable.
Gerhardstein represented the Equality Foundation of Greater Cincinnati in their unsuccessful attempt to have Article 12 struck down. He said Judge Dlott has the authority to remedy the discrimination by stopping enforcement of the measure.
The Cincinnati Enquirer called Barnes’ motion against Article 12 its “most serious legal challenge in years.”
Langdon’s motion notes that Brinkman and Miller have asked the city solicitor to stop the hate crime ordinance, and claims that their interests in that action would be harmed if Dlott grants Barnes’ request.
According to their motion, Brinkman and Miller claim that they need to join Barnes’ suit because the city won’t adequately defend Article 12. They cite statements by Mayor Charlie Luken and members of council in the media and on Cincinnati Stonewall PAC candidate surveys supporting its repeal.
“Considering the public declarations of opposition to Article 12 by the City’s top officials and decision-makers, particularly those declarations which indicate a commitment to attacking--not defending--Article 12 if its merits are to be litigated, there is more than ample reason to suggest that a potential exists for inadequate representation of the Movant’s [ERNSR, Brinkman, and Miller’s] interests,” argues Langdon.
Following Barnes’ award, City Solicitor J. Rita McNeil told the Enquirer the city would appeal the jury’s decision and fight any attempt to throw out Article 12.
Akron--A judge who had a transsexual man jailed over three old marriage licenses is not immune to being sued, a federal court has ruled.
In a March 4 decision, U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus denied a motion by former Stark County Probate Judge R.R. Denny Clunk to dismiss a suit brought against him by Sean Brookings.
The suit resulted from Brookings’ February 2002 arrest after being charged by Clunk with falsification on three marriage licenses Clunk had granted in the 1980s and early 90s.
According to Clunk’s September 2001 criminal complaint, Brookings did not disclose that he was a post-operative transsexual, or that he had twice before married men while he was a woman.
At the time, Clunk told the Gay People’s Chronicle that although it was unusual for a judge to step off the bench to make a complaint, it was proper for him to do so under the Ohio marriage law.
All charges against Brookings were dismissed by Canton Municipal Court Judge John Poulos because the statute of limitations had run out. Falsification is a misdemeanor and must be prosecuted within two years.
Brookings filed a federal civil rights suit against Clunk in October 2002.
Clunk, who was a sitting judge at the time, claimed judicial immunity from the suit in his December motion. He retired at the end of that month.
Other defendants in the suit include Tallmadge attorney Vincent Alfera, the son of Brookings’ late wife Dimple Lois McKinney, and three unnamed Stark County sheriff’s employees.
Alfera represented McKinney’s children in a dispute with Brookings over her will. He sent a letter to Clunk in May 2001 urging him to prosecute Brookings.
“Judge Clunk’s actions clearly fall outside the scope of what the Sixth Circuit has termed ‘pragmatic judicial acts’.” Economus wrote.
Economus agreed with Brookings’ attorney Randi Barnabee of Macedonia that Clunk acted as a prosecutor, rather than in a judicial capacity, by pursuing the falsification charges.
When Clunk filed the criminal complaint, Economus wrote, “he did so as an ordinary citizen, not as a judge, and in so doing he subjected himself to liability for money damages . . .”
Economus granted the part of Clunk’s motion arguing that additional claims against him was not a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution as Barnabee claimed.
Instead, Economus redirected the claim to fall under the Fourth Amendment and ordered Barnabee to amend the suit to include malicious prosecution.
“Clunk’s best chance for defense in this case has failed,” said Barnabee.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
Texas judge is first to recognize Vermont civil union
Beaumont, Texas--A judge in Texas officially recognized a Vermont civil union March 3 by dissolving one in his court.
The divorce marks the first time a judge in another state has recognized a Vermont civil union.
Judge Tom Mulvaney signed a divorce decree for Russell Smith, 26, and John Anthony, 34, a Beaumont couple granted a civil union in Vermont in February 2002.
No state sanctions same-sex marriages, but the Vermont legislature approved civil unions in 2000, giving same-sex couples many of the benefits of marriage.
Mulvaney said the case was a first for him, and others in the legal profession said they thought it was the only such divorce in the state or the nation.
Smith said he had to get a legal divorce for financial reasons. He told the Beaumont Enterprise that getting the union dissolved in Vermont would have required Smith or Anthony to live in that state for at least a year before a final divorce hearing.
Courts in Georgia and Connecticut have refused to recognize Vermont civil unions. The Connecticut case also involved two men seeking to undo the union.
Richard Carlson, a law professor at South Texas College of Law in Houston, said that because both parties agreed to the divorce, appeals are unlikely. But if an appeal was made to a higher court, Carlson said he would expect that court to simply not recognize the civil union as binding.
Iowa adoption ban is dead
Des Moines, Iowa--Legislative leaders said March 6 that a bill to prohibit gay or lesbian couples from adopting children won’t make it to the Senate this session.
The bill would have prohibited the Iowa Department of Human Services from allowing an openly gay couple from adopting a child or serving as foster parents.
It was considered by the Senate Human Resources Committee on February 23 but did not come to a vote after a large group of gay rights supporters showed up to hear the debate.
Senate Majority Leader Stewart Iverson, R-Dows, said that the bill will not be reintroduced.
Second Covington hearing is March 25
Covington, Kentucky--Ground rules and a location have been set for a second hearing on the proposed addition of sexual orientation to the human rights ordinance of this Cincinnati suburb.
The proposed expansion would also add gender identity and five other categories not currently protected under the city’s human rights ordinance.
The hearing will be held at 6:30 pm March 25 in the Latonia Elementary School gym at 39th St. and Huntington Ave.
No signs will be allowed in the meeting area. Individuals will have three minutes to speak, while those representing organizations will have five minutes.
The meeting will last two hours, and the ten people who did not have time to speak at the first hearing on the measure will be given first priority.
At the first public hearing in February, 40 people spoke in favor of the proposed change, saying that it would correct ongoing injustices, while three people said they believed it was unnecessary and would grant “special rights.”
1,600 rally against rights repeal
St. Paul--Up to 1,600 people rallied on March 6 at the state capitol in support of the state’s ten-year-old law barring discrimination by sexual orientation or gender identity.
Out Front Minnesota organized the event to protest a bill to repeal the protections in the state’s Human Rights Act, and a move to cut domestic partner benefits for state employees.
Lesbian Arctic explorer Ann Bancroft and gay former Minnesota Viking Esera Tuaolo spoke at the rally.
NGLTF director returns to L.A. center
Los Angeles--Executive director Lorri L. Jean and deputy director Darrel Cummings will leave the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force when their two-year contracts expire on May 31.
The two will return to their former employer, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, which has been struggling through difficult financial times.
While some sources inside the NGLTF seem pleased with Jean’s tenure, in which she put the group on firmer financial footing, others point to a number of layoffs and resignations and say that her style of management was at odds with the historical thrust of the group.
“NGLTF is not the L.A. Center,” a former staff member told the Washington Blade. “The purpose and politics are much different, and sometimes Lori didn’t understand that.”
The organization, currently reorganizing to keep its finances in good shape, is also shifting its focus to narrow its scope but increase its depth. Instead of working on a wide array of issues, the group will focus on training groups at the local and state levels to accomplish their goals.
NGLTF has trained a number of organizations to turn back challenges to gay civil rights legislation in the last two years.
“In past years, we had been losing these anti-gay ballot measures 75% of the time,” Jean noted. “What happened in 2001 showed that our program worked.”
Director Gus Van Sant likes making films without written dialogue
Filmmaker Gus Van Sant is currently being honored at the Wexner Center in Columbus with a retrospective of his cinematic oeuvre. He came to the Wexner to introduce his latest film Gerry, which will open nationwide at the end of March.
The openly gay director’s aunt has lived in Columbus since the 1950s and was a dean at Otterbein College in suburban Westerville. A few years ago, his sister and his parents moved to the Columbus area, making it the home of the entire clan except for the director, who lives in Portland, Oregon.
Van Sant’s latest film Gerry, a intelligent piece of cinema about two friends (Matt Damon and Casey Affleck) who get lost in a desert, is a mature and breathtaking work of art. He says that he is “very happy with the finished product.” He relates how the “process of shooting in the deserts of Argentina and Death Valley was really hard.”
In addition, Gerry was the first time that Van Sant has worked with a basic script outline, but no dialogue. Instead, he and the actors improvised throughout, creating not only an organic end product, but also a process that was constantly shifting and morphing, much like the varied landscapes the two protagonists find themselves lost in.
Van Sant says that he always uses a certain amount of improvisation and script flexibility in all his projects, especially like in Drugstore Cowboy and his early underground effort Mala Noche.
Van Sant admits that he liked working with no written dialogue.
“There are lots of ways nobody has done things,” he says, and this seems to have been his raison d’etre throughout his career.
With Gerry, or other pieces where he has allowed things to grow organically, Van Sant says that he is drawn to the idea of the cast and crew “acting and reacting to what might be.”
“In Gerry,” he adds, “the characters are getting into a lot of trouble and this reaches ridiculous proportions because the size of the trouble was large as well.”
It is this troubled journey that is the kernel of truth-seeking in Gerry, and while the film has dark and tragic undertones, the organic process has allowed it to have many funny moments of existential angst and human endurance.
That same dark angst and humor put the Nicole Kidman vehicle To Die For on the map. Not only did it acknowledge Kidman as a serious actor, but it jump-started the star career of Joaquin Phoenix and put Van Sant in the Hollywood mainstream. But his true bonanza came in the form of Good Will Hunting, a critical and box-office hit that gave him the clout to do anything he wished.
Gerry is Van Sant’s third collaboration with Matt Damon, who had a small cameo in the director’s Finding Forrester as well as starring in Good Will Hunting. He speaks highly of Damon, who he calls “a really good actor.”
“In fact,” he continues, “Matt was supposed to have Joaquin’s role in To Die For.” But Phoenix got the part because “Matt had a bit too much of the football jock in him and the character needed to have a more helpless aura about him.”
Like the great filmmakers before him, Francois Truffaut and Ingmar Bergman, or like his contemporary Pedro Almodovar, Van Sant is keen on the idea of working with the same ensemble of actors over a period of time and in a number of different films.
“This appeals to me,” he says, “but I want to do so with unknown actors as opposed to famous ones,” he said. “With unknown actors, you are better able to buy them as the authentic character.”
Not being comfortable in one’s own skin is a character trait embodied by many of the protagonists in Van Sant’s films. From My Own Private Idaho to Gerry and from To Die For to Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, the central characters are searching for a sense of belonging, are longing to be at home with themselves and those around them.
Does Van Sant identify with this? Is he consciously drawn to such characters and stories?
“Yes, I probably am drawn to this motif,” he admits, “but it is probably at a more subconscious level.”
Is it because of his sexuality, or because he has chosen to always stay a bit outside of the Hollywood mainstream?
“I guess it’s just my standard emotional position in life,” he says, “being on the outside, you know?”
Among filmmakers,Van Sant is once again drawn to other so-called outsiders. He mentions Thomas Vinterberg, Béla Tarr of Hungary, Abbas Kiarostami of Iran (A Taste of Cherry, Ten), and Lars Von Trier (Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark). In the U.S he is drawn to the work of Todd Haynes, also one of the few openly gay directors working in Hollywood today, whose Far From Heaven is nominated for four Academy Awards this year.
Van Sant says he liked Haynes’ most recent film a lot. While all these filmmakers tackle different subject matter with varying cinematic styles, Van Sant sees one similarity in all of them.
“They are all doing something that’s beyond simply telling a story,” he concludes.
Not that telling a story is irrelevant for Van Sant. But the more important aspect to filmmaking is how one tells that story. Even the simplest stories can be told in the most compelling ways, he says, and the most compelling stories can be botched by inept execution.
While Van Sant’s films have not always been critical or box-office hits, he is demure when asked to name those of his own films that he is partial to. “They are all equal to me,” he said.
We then shifted to the current state of affairs, particularly the impending war in Iraq. Van Sant was asked whether stars should use their clout to speak out against the war, or in favor of it for that matter, as Bruce Willis recently did by calling up President Bush and asking if he could enlist.
“They should,” Van Sant said.
Many stars, it was pointed out, have come under fire from the White House and others for protesting the president’s plans for a war with Iraq, particularly Sean Penn and George Clooney.
“I think that the complaints are probably based on whether the celebrities are considered to be serious or not,” Van Sant said.
Nevertheless, he believes that people should use their positions to speak out, pro or con. He noted that no one objected to an issue of People magazine, right after the September 11 attacks, that showed actors giving blood and helping in other ways.
However, Van Sant quietly yet emphatically says that the current “insane Republican administration is very much like the McCarthy witch hunts” of the 1950s. Referring to the Bush regime as very “reactionary,” Van Sant says that they are very eager to find “scapegoats to blame things on.”
“The 1950s grew out of this bizarre obsession with McCarthy,” he continued, “and famous people like those in Hollywood were blacklisted and harassed as a form of terrorism to keep people away from the ideas” that went against the establishment. He sees many parallels between that era and the present.
We ended our discussion with the seminal people in his life that led Van Sant to where he is today. After a lengthy pause, his brow furrowed, Van Sant said that, “I can mention teachers who profoundly impacted my life.”
From the ages of ten through seventeen, Van Sant lived in Darien, Connecticut, and two teachers, Robert Lavigne and David Sohn, made quite an impact on him.
“Lavigne was my seventh grade art teacher,” he said, “and he himself made a lot of art which inspired me and got me very excited.”
“He was also quite a disciplinarian, which was good,” Van Sant added.
In the ninth grade, Van Sant came in contact with Sohn and in that class they made films, the start of what would become his life-long dedication.
Even though Van Sant has been making films for a while and is approaching middle age, it seems as though his best work still lies ahead of him. He is not afraid to try new things, he is insistent on making his audiences think, and he seems to have a real gift for telling stories about people yearning for true connections, and about the emotions and yens that live on the outer fringes of our consciousness.
Van Sant continues that odyssey of charged films with his next feature, a film called Elephant, which he said is “about high school violence.” It will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
The Wexner Center retrospective on Gus Van Sant concludes on March 20 with screenings of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Finding Forrester. The films will be shown back-to-back starting at 7 p.m. in the center’s Film and Video Theater, 1871 North High St. Tickets are $4 for members, students and seniors and $5 for the general public; call 614-292‑0330.
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