A student’s first year at the University can be overwhelming, but as a passionate performer, student, artist and advocate for social justice, freshman Brian Garcia is already beginning to make a difference.

Garcia is a School of Art & Design and School of Music, Theatre & Dance student majoring in Interarts Performance, with a focus on LGBT studies, women’s studies and feminist theory.

Garcia said his involvement in several campus organizations — including Assisting Latinos to Maximize Achievement, Coalition for Queer People of Color, the Educational Theater Company and Detroit Connections — contribute to his drive to improve life and opportunities for people struggling to take pride in their identities.

The Interarts Performance major, introduced in fall 2009, is a competitive major that allows students to create their own unique brand of art. It’s the brainchild of Music, Theatre & Dance Associate Prof. Holly Hughes, whose campy murder-mystery production, “The Well of Horniness,” will feature Brian as Vicki — a character who escapes from an evil lesbian sorority by hooking-up with a man — when it opens in New York City later this year.

At the Interarts Showcase last fall 2012, Garcia created an audio-visual-live-performance on race and ethnicity. During his spare time, Garcia paints with oil pastels, sketches, draws and paints and does “pretty much anything except singing.”

With Detroit Connections — a volunteer program through the School of Art & Design — Garcia traveled to the city every Friday to teach students in a Detroit classroom. And working with the Coalition for Queer People of Color, he emceed a catwalk extravaganza last week for the two-day Color of Change summit.

“My main goal is to educate,” Garcia said. “I want to use art as a motivational tool for education.”

Throughout Garcia’s freshman year, he was mentored as part of ALMA, and hopes to give back by becoming a mentor himself this summer — which he said will allow him to provide students the resources they need to find organizations that support LGBT students on campus.

“Working in social work and social justice, there’s a point you hit where you start to think of teaching people about oppression, teaching about all the concepts (and) at a point you start to forget that time when you were that person,” Garcia said. “For example, I used to be the person who said ‘That’s so gay,’ and I forget that at one point I didn’t know.”

Garcia said whatever direction he takes for a career, it’s going to involve incorporating and representing people in the Latino and queer communities, identities that he said bring unique challenges.

“For a Latino that’s in a conservative community, it can be completely overwhelming to have not only the misrepresentation of yourself in queer culture — where it’s mostly white, gay males that are represented — but you also have the misrepresentation in your own culture, the machismo and the patriarchy that stills go on,” Garcia said.

Garcia said he’s always thinking about social issues, especially ones that may at times be overlooked.

“Well how does this affect the bigger picture? How am I indirectly, without thinking about it, affecting the person living out in the middle of nowhere?” Garcia said. “I think with the ‘equal signs for example,’ I think a lot of people don’t realize that the Human Rights Campaign is largely a white and affluent male community — that in itself becomes problematic because people who are Latino, African-American, if they don’t see themselves in this group, it becomes problematic.”

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