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Wallflowers see Perks at alternative homecoming dance

By Allison Keene
On November 8, 2012

  • The North American Wildlife Hall, within Carnegie Musuem of Natural History, will be the location of Wallflowers and Wildflowers. Fred Blauth / The Photo Editor

There might be some Perks to being a wallflower, after all.

Wallflowers and Wildflowers: Alternative Homecoming is a dance inspired by the novel and film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and will take place in the museum of Natural History's North American Wildlife Halls on Nov. 10.

"This is a collaborative effort and not something that's been done in any city that we know," said Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

According to Angela Scardina, teen program manager at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the dance is an opportunity for students who don't have a homecoming, such as homeschool or cyber school students, to attend a dance. It is also an accepting environment for students who do not feel comfortable at their own homecomings.

"The museum really welcomes and encourages a diverse audience," Scardina said. "This event is an opportunity that includes all teens."

The dance is a result of a partnership between the Carnegie Library, the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History and the Mayor's Office of Youth Policy. The event will include a silent screening of Perks, filmed last year in Pittsburgh, scavenger hunts in the Wildlife Hall, art projects led by the Carnegie Musueum of Art, food and music. The librarians will act as DJs for the night, Scardina said.

In addition to focusing on cyber schools and homeschools, the event also reaches out to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ) community and patients of Pittsburgh's children's hospitals, said Kelly Rottmund, manager of the teen department at Carnegie Library. Both of these populations are often excluded from homecoming events, whether through an inability to attend or a feeling that they are unwelcome.

"Often times [the LGBTQ community] can't bring the dates they would like to these kinds of events," Rottmund said. "[This] way we can provide them with something that they're not getting somewhere else."

According to Doven, the Mayor's Youth Council helped to create the alternative dance as the pinnacle event of their mission for 2012: combatting bullying.

"The team saw this movie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and had this idea of an alternative homecoming," Doven said. "This is the real main event that we're putting on."
According to Scardina, the Carnegie Library has considered an alternative homecoming event in the past and hopes that the popularity of the movie and book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, will bolster interest in the dance.

"Because of the fan base for the book and the film, the library really thought that they could take an opportunity," Scardina said. Organizers hope for an attendance of 100, though they can accommodate up to 150 students.

According to Rottmund, the dance itself is as much of a draw as the fact that it's tied into The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

"I don't know if people will connect to it [because of the movie] as opposed to it's a really cool event in an unexpected place," Rottmund said. "It's in the hall of North American Wildlife and Botany. That in itself is like a movie."

Scardina agreed, adding that hosting a party after hours in the Wildlife Halls is an "event in itself." The parallel to the film is an additional draw to an already interesting event, she said.

"We're always trying to get teens to see us in a different light," Rottmund said, "as a fun and interesting place that hosts events that are relevant to their [lives]."

The Wallflowers and Wildflowers dance accomplishes this goal of engaging teenagers in the library, but it does draw much of its strength from its association from the book, Rottmund said.

"We see the need for providing meaningful activities for teens in the community," Rottmund said. "The fact that we can relate it to a book that has been so popular and meant so much to so many people makes it that much better."

According to Scardina, the dance is successful in echoing the message of the book.

"It's more or less about the inclusion, making people feel comfortable and welcome, giving them a place and time they can call their own," Scardina said.

The dance will be held on Nov. 10 from 7:30 to 10 p.m. in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's North American Wildlife Halls. Tickets are $3 when purchased at any of the Carnegie Library branches and $5 at the door. All students aged 14 to 17 and in grades 9 to 12 are welcome.

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