Sexy Beast: The Organization Fighting Planned Parenthood Budget Cuts with Art and Bomb Ass Parties

After the progressive Women’s March in Washington, D.C. in January 2017, equality — be it social, gender, race or sexual — is once again in the spotlight. Nearly one year after the march, we’re seeing the fruits of justice only begin to ripen. Sexual assault is being taken seriously. Powerful execs are being fired. Women are speaking up and it seems the dismantling of white male supremacy has begun. Men are finally being held accountable for their actions. Courage is shining down. Momentum is building and permanent change is almost within reach… almost.

We have arrived at a critical tipping point where this country will no longer tolerate abuse against women. Although the visibility of day-to-day patient visits and operations get lost behind law-making closed doors, the frontlines of women’s healthcare rights can always count on one organization to consistently aid in health services, education and advocacy for all: Planned Parenthood. Los Angeles’ local Planned Parenthood sector (PPLA) offers services that include breast and cervical cancer screenings, post rape exams, birth control and STI treatment, among dozens more.

However, government funding isn’t always aligned with women’s rights.

Started by women of the art world and founded in 2014, Sexy Beast arose from a desire to extend the scope of the art world in order to make a difference.

After raising nearly $1 million over two milestone benefit events and auctions, their mission is to make better resources available to Planned Parenthood and unite as women: protecting our bodies, rights, and freedoms.

The more people who know about Sexy Beast the better. Last year PPLA saw 242,000 patients with only a quarter of that number living above federal poverty level. While heightening awareness about the vital services PPLA offers, Sexy Beast program directors, Sonny Ruscha Granade and Kristen Stegemoeller were able to spare a few moments to fill us in about this initiative benefitting girls, teens, women and men, regardless of their ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender identification or sexual orientation.

What exactly is Sexy Beast and what does it advocate?

Sexy Beast is a series of events and collaborations benefiting Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, with a mission to harness the goodwill and powerful connections of the creative community. Our central goal with Sexy Beast for Planned Parenthood LA is to bring together creative talents across disciplines for the greater good. We are advocating an attitude of empowerment and joyful resistance in an atmosphere where many feel helpless.

Was there a specific catalyst or political issue that thrust the idea of Sexy Beast into collective consciousness?

It all started with two young feminists on a mission. Founders, Mieke Marple and Davida Nemeroff of Night Gallery started the event because they felt disillusioned with the hermetic, insular nature of the art world. They felt compelled to harness the connections they’d forged to do something good for the world outside of art. They chose Planned Parenthood Los Angeles as the focus of their efforts because of the excellent care they provide, and the agency they give men and women to control their bodies and reproductive health.

How has the current presidential administration affected Sexy Beast’s cause?

The outrages of the Trump administration have politicized every aspect of our lives, which has motivated a new wave of citizens to engage themselves in the fight against it. We feel that the wind is at our back, and we’re doing everything in our power to use this momentum to build upon our enthusiastic and engaged community of warriors for healthcare and women’s rights.

Besides the founders being artists themselves and owners of a prominent LA gallery, what is the connection between the art world and the foundation Sexy Beast survives on?

We work in the art world and the design community respectively, and we, along with our peers, wanted to contribute to the resistance against this current administration using our strongest talents and connections. Art and design are powerful communication tools that are inextricably bound to a conversation with the cultural atmosphere that surrounds them.

Tell me about this year’s T-shirt release…

In addition to the big fancy event that has a higher ticket price, we wanted to create some more affordable items that would enable people both in and outside of LA to be a part of Sexy Beast. When we decided to make an artist shirt to kick off fundraising for the Sexy Beast 2018 event, artist Jenny Holzer, was our first choice. Not only because she’s an incredible artist and our feminist hero, but because T-shirts themselves, emblazoned with her cuttingly incisive truisms, played such an iconic role in her early career. We were so honored when she agreed and doubly thrilled when she proposed creative visionary and fashion powerhouse, Virgil Abloh to design them. We could not have dreamed of a better pairing than Jenny and Virgil. For our limited edition suite of three shirts, Holzer revisited one of her most iconic and eternally relevant truisms, “Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise.” This slogan appears on one of the shirts, followed by her 2017 update on the original phrasing, “Abuse of Flower Comes As No Surprise.”

What would you say to people who want to get involved but have reservations about Planned Parenthood LA as the beneficiary of Sexy Beast?

In Los Angeles we have 18 Planned Parenthood health centers. They are often the primary healthcare provider for many of their patients and are the only source of reproductive planning for many women. Along with reproductive and sexual healthcare, they provide cancer screenings, wellness and preventative care, as well as prenatal care and sexual education. If someone has reservations about supporting Planned Parenthood, it is usually because they are not educated about them. There are countless heart-wrenching stories of the different ways Planned Parenthood has helped people with the highest level of empathy and without judgment. Planned Parenthood LA is often the leader for programs and systems, which are then implemented for the rest of the country.

In the context of America’s current socio-political climate, do you have any remarks about gender equality, sexual equality and/or women’s freedoms?

We’re in a breakthrough moment in our culture where it suddenly feels like real change is possible for women, people of color and other oppressed groups. We want to be a part of the movement towards unequivocal equality and help build a new generation of philanthropists!

In addition to program directors, Sonny Ruscha Granade and Kristen Stegemoeller, the small crew that makes up Sexy Beast is joined by two others: Tera Uhlinger, producer and close collaborator, and Jessica Trent, advisor of public relations, strategy and development. They will be hosting a 2018 Gala on Saturday, October 20th in LA. Check out their website to see how you can become a part of the positive impact.

Alexsis Ballard graduated from Central Saint Martins in London with a Bachelors in Criticism, Culture and Curation. She has worked with a range of artists and galleries across London and LA. Areas of curiosity include art, sexual and gender equality, race relations and media psychology. She is currently based in Los Angeles.

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