Love and equality through artwork

February 23, 2017 | GET MORE : Life

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U.S. Bank's card design contest celebrates the LGBT community.

A common thread connects the three finalists in U.S. Bank's LGBT Debit Card Art Contest: the belief in equality and a sense of pride in the LGBT community.

The artists, who come from different backgrounds and places in America, submitted their original designs to the bank’s card contest that launched in December and ended Jan. 31. Their designs were chosen from more than 400 submitted to the contest, which is part of U.S. Bank's ongoing efforts to show support for the LGBT community and highlight the bank's emphasis on diversity and inclusion.

Voting to choose the grand prize winner of the LGBT Debit Card Art Contest is open to the public and runs through Feb. 28. The winner will receive $7,500 and his or her design will become one of U.S. Bank's card designs. The runner-up receives $5,000 and the third-prize winner will get $2,500.

Nancy Faulhaber, 27, a finalist from Lakewood, Ohio, had a desire to showcase love as a universal virtue, as something that has the potential to help find common ground among different communities. "I think being that voice for equality is critical. We're dealing with human rights and happiness. Love can’t be defined in just one way. We should have every right to choose who we love."

Nancy, who works in marketing, said she's always embraced her creative side. She appreciates the opportunity to share her work and evoke an emotional experience in others whether it be through graphic design, photography, drawing or painting.

As she thought about her design, her ideas revolved around love and light. Her card features two hands forming a heart with a rainbow in the middle. "The whole concept was being the light of hope for change," she said. "The background feels gloomy, representing that no matter how dark the world might look around you, your story and your happiness matters and is worth telling. Our stories, words and actions are powerful enough to touch those around us and shine light on how beautiful it is that we are different. We all matter."

Nancy learned about the contest via a Facebook post just before Christmas, and she had some time off at the holidays to work on her design. "I am proud and humbled to represent the community and walk this path in the pursuit of equality. The world needs this, the world needs us," she said.

Finalist Joseph Escobar, 26, of Los Angeles, said art has always been his passion, even though his parents told him they didn’t think it was "a very promising career." Joseph struggled with his parents on a lot of issues, including his sexual orientation.

"I've faced some challenges," he said. "I got kicked out of my parents' house when I was 21 when they found out I was talking to another male. One day I left the house, and when I came back, my bed was gone. I slept on the floor for about a week, then made the decision to leave the house. I ended up somewhat homeless, although I did have friends who let me stay with them."

Joseph's financial and housing challenges made it difficult to stay in college, but he persevered, working full time throughout and ultimately getting a degree in art and graphic design from California State University, Northridge.

His card design, which he created with Adobe Illustrator, includes bold rainbow stripes and diverse people populating them. It reflects the "different shades of the community. Each person I chose represents a different culture, and I wanted to bring that into one single community. I feel at this time a lot of people feel alone … so we have to stick together and support each other."

His parents are "slowly coming around," Joseph said, but the challenges he faced – even to finish college – helped him become a better person, he said. "My story is one of many. The main thing is that I feel like no one should ever give up. We should be proud of who we are and live our lives to the fullest."

Finalist Olivia Ogba, 23, of Atlanta, works long hours as an ER medical transcriptionist at a hospital in Atlanta, and she is studying to take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). Her passions lie in medicine and art, and she has been drawing since she was a young child, because "it has always made me happy," she said.

Like the LGBT community, she, too, has sometimes found herself on the outside looking in at American society. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Nigeria when she was about 5 years old, in search of the "American dream." She said when you're an immigrant, "you don’t always fit in," so she understood the LGBT community to a degree.

She originally came up with the design at around the time that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2015 that same-sex marriage should be a right nationwide. The design is purposefully patriotic, featuring rainbow colors shooting from a sparkler on the Fourth of July.

"That’s what America stands for – the ability for everyone to go after the American dream without any sort of discrimination," she said.

Olivia said she’ll feel compelled to speak out for LGBT rights until being gay is just another part of our cultural tapestry. "I can't wait for a world where coming out isn't some huge deal. A world where it's just a passing note at the dinner table or while taking out the trash. Like, 'Hey, dad, I'm gay.' 'Oh, OK, son. Make sure you tie that trash bag tight. I don’t want the leftover milk bursting through the bag like last time.'"

Heather Draper is a Denver-based member of U.S. Bank's corporate communications team.

UPDATE: Rainbow sparklers, a design by artist Olivia Ogba of Atlanta, is the winner of our LGBT Debit Card Art Contest. Congratulations Olivia!