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Inspiring Conversations with Matthew Huffman & Daniel Tyson of Dorian Gray Youth Foundation/Dorian Gray Galleries

Today we’d like to introduce you to Matthew Huffman & Daniel Tyson. Them and their team share their story with us below:

Dorian Gray Youth Foundation & Galleries was born in 2020 out of the desire of husbands Daniel Tyson and Matthew Huffman as a crucial need to support at-risk LGBTQ+ youth in Northeast Ohio. In our own youth, we each experienced challenges with homelessness, without LGTBQ+-affirming resources, hope, or an any idea of where to go or what to do. We were able to navigate our own way out but knew how important it was to reach back for others. Now stable in our own careers, we felt we were able to start this idea and see where it took us. We are strong lovers and admirers of art and felt it was the perfect way to bring a helping hand to our community in our own way. Dorian Gray Youth Foundation & Galleries started as a modest two-person operation, collecting art in our basement from locals who believed in our mission and selling what we could on our website. We attended any events we could to get our name and mission out there, trying to make contacts to those who can direct us to individuals in need. Struggling through the pandemic and working full-time jobs while trying to keep our mission alive, we continued to grow our team and our contacts throughout our community. In late 2021, we started partnering with Gray’s Auctioneers, a renowned auction house here in Cleveland. The owners, Deba Gray and Serena Harrigan, quickly became our mentors and friends. Today we have an office space at the back of Gray’s Auctioneers, a team of six amazing and diverse individuals, and hundreds of pieces of art from all over the country! Dan is even working on his auctioneer license and we started holding live (in-person and online) auctions! We have raised thousands of dollars and have been able to provide rental assistance, utility assistance, funding for transportation, and have tried to be a voice of comfort in a difficult time. We are trying to be the light and hand to help others out of the dark that we so desperately needed when we were young and we hope to continue this mission for a long time to come. 

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Growing Dorian Gray Youth Foundation & Galleries came with many struggles. 

– When we started, we wanted to find a list of LGBTQ+-affirming resources (housing, clothing, support, etc.) that we could direct individuals to or work directly with in order to ensure the individual in need would feel accepted wherever they went. We found that, for a particularly large city, these resources are lacking. However, the individuals that are providing these resources have done incredible work. We found that many places do not openly express that they are LGBTQ+-affirming or we have heard situations where they are quite the opposite, making it difficult and scary to make sure we recommend and work with safe resources. 

– The youth LGBTQ+ at-risk community may not be open with their sexuality or gender identity wherever they are staying as it could potentially be a safety risk to them, making it harder to find those in our community to help them. 

– Those that are housing insecure or at-risk also may not have easy access to transportation, a phone or computer, safe housing, or method to contact us to receive any help. 

– Dan and I both work full-time jobs so we have had to learn how to manage our mission to ensure that those in need are taken care of as soon as possible. 

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Not many people are aware that LGBTQ+ youth have a 120% higher risk of reporting housing insecurity compared to youth who identify as heterosexual and cisgender. It is estimated that LGBTQ+ youth make up to 42% of the unaccompanied housing insecure youth population (while only 5.6% of the total US population identify as LGBTQ+). This exponentially increases the risk of suicide, drug abuse, and risky sexual encounters. Oftentimes, LGBTQ+ youth become housing insecure from being forced out of their nuclear homes, leaving them with no access to a support system. 

Dorian Gray Youth Foundation & Galleries is a nonprofit organization that takes in donated art to then be auctioned off. Since all the art is donated, we are able to auction original, antique, and/or unique pieces of art for less, making fine art more accessible while also giving it new life. Additionally, any donations to Dorian Gray Youth Foundation & Galleries are tax-deductible. 

Most importantly, 100% of the proceeds raised from our auctions (and any monetary donations raised) go directly to individuals in need – the LGBTQ+ at-risk (housing insecure, food insecure, or in an unsafe environment, etc.) youth (ages 12 – 24) in the Northeast Ohio area. Individuals in need apply for assistance on our website and we partner with local businesses, resources, social workers, etc. to connect or fund the individuals’ direct needs. Dan and Matt have both been in the shoes of the individuals they serve so they want to be an empathic and understanding presence in a desperate time. Something as little as helping someone get back on their feet can make all the difference in the world. 

Stay up to date with everything we are doing on our website! 

What matters most to you? Why?
What matters most to us is being able to provide safe and basic human needs to our community. We understand how difficult and terrifying it can be to be in need and not knowing where you can safely turn to for help. Our community has fought for so long and overcome so much and still continues to fight and struggle to this day. We want to provide even the little bit of help that we can to make at least one person feel safer in this world. Even if we never meet the people we are serving, we want them to know that somewhere out there, they are loved and accepted for who they are. Growing up LGBTQ+ in the Midwest has its own challenges and we want to make it even a fraction easier if we could. 

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Graffiti HeArt Photographer
Tony Palmieri

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