“Leave Your Mark” on the Westboro District of Topeka

The Equality House will host a drag show on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. It is located at 200 SW Orleans St. in Topeka, directly across from the Westboro Baptist Church.

The Westboro Project, led by seniors Stevie Delgado and Riley Boomer, aims to take back the Westboro name and rebrand it. The Leave Your Mark event is a part of this rebranding and will occur 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13 on the lawn of the equality house at 1200 SW Orleans St.

Delgado and Boomer are both senior art majors in their last year at Washburn University. The Westboro Project is an event idea between the two of them for their senior exhibition.

The goal of the event is to put up a white fence around the house to rival the fence around the Westboro Baptist Church. This fence will be white, open and inviting. The event invites all members of the Topeka community to come and decorate fence panels. Delgado and Boomer want the fence to be painted with words of affirmation and love for the LGBTQ+ community.

There will be art supplies, food, beverages and music provided. Delgado and Boomer want this to be an event that is inviting for all types of people in the Topeka community to freely express their positivity and love through art.

They will have prints, stickers and t-shirts for sale at the event. Half of the proceeds will be given to a LGBTQ+ charity or organization. They are also planning on announcing an art show during this event that will be open to the community. They will be accepting art submissions from any medium that promotes love and acceptance. The winner of the art show will get to pick which charity the proceeds from the event will be donated to.

When Delgado and Boomer began planning for the exhibition they knew they wanted to do something in the community because they are both focused on social practice as part of their art. They are both also members of the queer community and wanted to do something to benefit the LGBTQ+ community in Topeka.

“When thinking of what to do for the project our brains immediately went to the Westboro Baptist Church,” Boomer said. “They cast a negative light on the queer community in Topeka and we wanted to rebrand the Westboro name to show them in a positive, loving light.”

While planning this event, Delgado and Boomer became concerned about the legality of the project. They wanted everything to go smoothly and taking on the Westboro Baptist Church can be a daunting and seemingly impossible task. They wanted the name of the project to be directly connected to the church so that when people thought of the church they could directly link their positive project to the negative image of the church.

“We spoke with our faculty mentor and some lawyer friends and we discovered that ‘Westboro’ is a name that belongs to no one, as it refers to a district of Topeka,” Delgado said. “That is how the name ‘The Westboro Project’ came to be.”

The project is all about love and affirmation. Delgado and Boomer aren’t trying to attack the Westboro Baptist Church, but to counter the hate they spread and the protesting and picketing they do by giving another sign of love and openness right across the street from the infamous church building.

Both Boomer and Delgado plan to continue the project after the exhibition. They have plans to join in on a protest done by the Westboro Baptist Church, but using signs that give positive comments and affirmations, alongside the negative, hateful signs that they use to protest. They want to join in and take photos of the experience to create a gallery to go along with The Westboro Project.

“We hope to expand this project past just queer rights,” Boomer said. “We want people to think of Topeka and think of Westboro in a positive light all over the country.”