Why the Kimmel Center Got Involved With the “It Gets Better Project”

A scene from the It Gets Better concert.

A scene from the It Gets Better concert.

This week, the Kimmel Center presents the Philadelphia engagement of the “It Gets Better Project,” a series of performances, panels, and concerts that celebrate LGBTQ youth. Branded around the now-famous YouTube campaign encouraging young folks to embrace their identities and sexualities, the residency here in Philly includes partnerships with over 40 local community organizations. We had the chance to chat with Kimmel Artistic Director Jay Wahl about the project’s impact on the region and what exactly “It Gets Better” means to him.

G PhillyAs an openly gay person, what does it mean for you that the Kimmel is hosting the “It Gets Better Project?”

Jay Wahl Cropped

Jay Wahl

JW: The Kimmel’s support of this program is so much larger than my personal circumstances. While this project naturally resonates with me personally, our entire staff has put their full effort behind supporting it. While it feels incredibly fulfilling to work on, it’s always been more complex than any individual in our organization. The Kimmel Center has a responsibility to address the concerns of all communities in Philadelphia and I’m proud to be a part of this team.

G PhillyThe project had such humble beginnings on YouTube, but it has turned into a world-wide sensation. Why do you think the message was so resonant?

JW: I think the message is universal, really. It’s not just for people who identify as LGBTQ: It’s for any youth/teen (and any adult) who feel hopeless or misunderstood, or challenged or unsure or lost. While the concerns are real and difficult, the message of this work is relatively simple: Life compounds on itself, yet every day is rife with opportunities for growth. Hopefully, the hard parts of our lives pass and become pages in our memoirs as we grow up and develop a strong sense of self. I hope all youth who are currently having very real challenges related to who they are come to understand that in time they will develop self-confidence and find a community who loves and respects them for exactly who they are.

G Philly: What can people expect at the Saturday evening cumulative concert and show?

JW: The audience can expect to see familiar faces from the community in Philadelphia, because, while the message resonates outside of the community for people of gender/sexual minorities, the residency is for Philadelphia’s community first and foremost. The concert event is truly the capstone on a really incredible week of support, solidarity, and learning. It’s a celebration of us, and it’s an example youth can look to when they want to know what ‘better’ really looks like.

G Philly: There are so many great community partners who are teaming up for this project—everyone from William Way to Philadelphia FIGHT. What has it been like to work with so many key players to bring the project to the Kimmel?

JW: It’s amazing that we have so many community partners that have come together for this . A lot of these people are friends and colleagues already, but to come together in support of this cause has just been a huge reminder about how diverse Philly’s LGBTQ community is, and how much we have to give to the community. It’s been inspiring to see the impact we can have when we all focus our efforts in a single direction.

To learn more about the Kimmel Center It Gets Better Project residency, click here, and follow our weeklong coverage of the events. You can chat about the project on social media using the hashtag #ItGetsBetterPhilly. Follow Jay Wahl on Twitter at @mad_rhinoceros.