A little less then one year ago, a group of men and women began work on creating a cultural center for the GLBTQIF (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and intersex) community. Over the past eleven months the work has gone from focus groups and proposals to fundraising and carpentry build-out.

“Our vision," according to OutCentral's Executive Director, Jim Hawk, "is to create a cultural center—a hub, if you will—that welcomes gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and intersex individuals and their friends and families into a positive energy-filled environment where individuals and organizations can collaborate, where enduring relationships can be created, where there is integration rather than isolation and where recreation and education can flourish.”

According to Board Moderator Stephanie Barger, “OutCentral will not open this fall as planned, but steady progress continues to be made, and it will open in early 2008.”

Wade Jones, marketing chair, continues, “the transformation of the space is amazing.”

Plans for the space include a welcome desk and lobby, a great room for conferences and programs, a large conference room for group meetings, an art gallery, library and six offices for different local organizations to use.

The board of diretors has paid cash for everything. There is no debt. As money comes in from donors, it is used for monthly expenses and the current work project.

“Right now,” according to Hawk, “we are all focused on the electrical work.” The original estimate for this work was $11,700. About $3,500 is still needed."

“The next phase of construction—drywall, painting, cabinetry, finishing and lighting—is almost completely funded,” according to Hawk, “What is really holding us back right now is the electrical work.”

The program committee is preparing for an immediate launch once construction is complete. They are planning events and activities for every Thursday and Saturday night. Initial plans are to offer educational programming on Thursday evenings that will feature everything from workshops on parenting and investing, to goal setting and personal growth. The programming committee has set aside Saturday evenings to provide social activities for the community like games, concerts, movies and art shows.

Already OutCentral has been very active in the community. The organization co-sponsored the annual Tree Lighting at Outloud, and a National Coming Out Day Celebration at Lipstick Lounge. OutCentral has hosted a community leadership conference and a series of small focus groups to get the feedback and direction of the many parts that make up the community. 

In the last few weeks OutCentral has had thank you parties for its donors and volunteers, and began utilizing the future space for organizations such as the Nashville Bulls and the Smoky Mountain Rodeo Association (SMRA). Thanks to the weekly movie night at Outloud Café, the center has been able to send financial contributions to One-In-Teen, Nashville Pride and the Nashville AIDS Walk.

Tax-deductible contributions will make it possible to provide the very best facilities and programming to the GLBTQIF community. Donations can be made on the OutCentral Website www.OutCentral.org

According to Kate Nelson, development chair, “we welcome two primary types of gifts: one-time donations and recurring monthly donations. One-time donations will make it possible to complete the electrical work and other phases of the build-out. Recurring monthly donations will help insure that we have money every month for the basic things like rent, utilities, programming and other monthly expenses.”

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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