Novak collaborated with the local LGBTQI+ community to create the installation at Bayfair, which focuses on acknowledging, supporting, and celebrating the local LGBTQI+ community in Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty.
He says the project makes space for community voices to be seen and heard; voices from the local/national LGBTQI+ community – but particularly BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) voices who may or may not identify as part of the LGBTQI+ community, such as takatāpui.
“I hope the project will grow public awareness around key challenges the local LGBTQI+ community faces and ultimately grow support for this community.
“Support takes many forms including donations to local LGBTQI+ organisations like RainbowYOUTH and Gender Dynamix who are on the frontlines. This can be monetary or in other ways like the volunteering of time.”
One way people can directly contribute is by purchasing RainbowYOUTH merchandise, available at the Tauranga Art Gallery.
Novak is a part of the LGBTQI+ community, so naturally, his work has explored his own identity and the identity of others.
“In the early years, I wasn’t explicit about this in my artwork as I didn’t feel comfortable or safe doing that. It wasn’t until much later that I decided to move my practice out of the closet and explore LGBTQI+ issues and challenges in the open.
The trigger point for me was a growing and uncomfortable relationship with death as I got older. More and more people I knew in the LGBTQI+ community were experiencing anxiety and depression, and sadly I have lost a number to suicide, including my ex-partner. I could not let this continue – so I decided to deal with this very openly to help lower the numbers”.
Through his artwork, Novak hopes to build awareness of these challenges with the general public and encourage support of the LGBTQI+ community year-round, not just during pride season.
Bayfair Centre Manager, Steve Ellingford, says the team prides itself on thinking about the big picture when it comes to providing the best for the community.
“Along with accessibility, we advocate for inclusivity. We love Shannon’s work and the concept to help reduce rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide in the local LGBTQI+ community. Essentially, to save lives.”