By Keri Hayes
Arizona Daily Wildcat
ithin the past 13 years, AIDS has taken the lives of 243,423 people in America. The spread of the tragic disease continues; about 158,326 Americans are currently living with HIV/AIDS, according to data from the National AIDS Hotline. Artists such as Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe and Liberace have died from AIDS, but equally important is the fact that people in our own community continue to suffer from the disease, while friends and families mourn the loss of loved ones.
In order to increase acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) awareness and remember those who have passed away, Dec. 1 is designated World AIDS Day: Day Without Art/Night Without Light. Observed internationally for the past seven years by individuals, art galleries, AIDS organizations and concerned business establishments, the day is sponsored by the Pan-American Health Organization and a non-profit group called Visual AIDS.
Among college students, a 1989 study estimated that one in 500 are HIV positive, Lee Ann M. Hamilton, a student health educator said. UA statistics are impossible to acquire, as many students never get tested, or do it anonymously at the health department, Hamilton said.
UA is participating in this international event with a series of programs. The University Activities Board Arts Committee, the Women's Resource Center and SHAC plan to shroud as much campus art as possible with black drapes, including the mall sculptures and the chemistry building sculpture. On Dec. 1 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. there will be a few student groups under the Student Health tent: Frisky Business will be giving away safer-sex information and condoms, the Student Health Advisory Council will be distributing red ribbons to wear in honor of World AIDS Day and BGALA will be placing tombstones on the Mall every 18 minutes in memorial to people in the U.S. who are dying from AIDS, at the rate of one every 18 minutes. Free anonymous HIV testing will be offered in Student Union Room 350 from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The UA Center for Creative Photography will observe World AIDS Day by darkening the entire gallery except for a spotlight on one photograph by exhibiting photographer Lola Alvarez Bravo, "Homenaje (A Salvador Tuscano)." The photograph, an homage to someone close to Bravo who died young, features a crane shot in the head lying on rippled sand near the ocean. Although Bravo's photograph was taken before we learned of the actual disease AIDS, the center has designated it as appropriate to the Dec. 1 ambiance.
For some UA students, World AIDS Day/Day Without Art will have profound significance, however many were not even aware of the event.
"AIDS Day represents to me a time to meditate on the losses art has suffered because of AIDS," said Lisa Myers, an undeclared UA sophomore. "There are so many artists who have died from the disease; it's really sad."
Dec. 1 is a time to shroud or remove the art that enriches our lives and pay homage to artists and others who suffer from or who have lost their lives to AIDS. Galleries around the world participate by covering their exhibits with black drapes or closing their doors to patrons, while many AIDS organizations have arranged special events in honor of the day. This year's World AIDS Day theme is AIDS
New York based Visual AIDS has played an important role in heightening AIDS awareness in the past. Public information specialist Barbara Pollack said the organization is concerned with bringing to public attention the fact that many artists lost to AIDS are not only statistics; their contributions are irreplaceable. The organization is credited with the introduction of the renowned red ribbon which has now become an international AIDS awareness icon.
The organization began Day Without Art in 1988 as a New York City event that involved 1,200 cultural institutions, Pollack said. The event has grown internationally since then, with 5,500 cultural institutions participating last year. Pollack said there are probably many more participants than this, since many smaller community organizations do not report their activities to Visual AIDS.
"The art community was extremely heavily hit by AIDS. Although the death of a loved one is a major loss to anyone, there were a number of renowned individuals lost really early on," said Pollack. "We could see the loss not only in the absence of the individual, but in the loss of the dances or art that person would have created later in life."
Visual AIDS has put together a film titled "Electric Blanket," which resembles AIDS quilts. The film features the faces of hundreds of people living with AIDS and will be shown in major cities like Atlanta, New York, Seattle and San Francisco on World AIDS Day, Pollack said.
From 7:45-8 p.m., every city in the nation has been encouraged to turn off decorative lighting on buildings and bridges for a 15 minute period for a Night Without Light event. Virtually every office building in New York City will turn off its lights, including the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center, Pollack said.
Local 803 Gallery, 803 E. Helen St., will observe World AIDS Day by closing its doors and draping the windows with black cloth; a sign will inform patrons of the importance of the day.
"We're closing our doors in an effort to encourage people to at least spend some time thinking about AIDS issues," said Heather Gross, Local 803 gallery manager.
One of Tucson's biggest World AIDS Day events will take place Dec. 2 at the Dinnerware Gallery, 135 E. Congress St. Organized by the Shanti Foundation and the gallery, "Paper Prayers" will feature small (four-inch by 12-inch) original pieces constructed by over 100 local artists.
While some artists make special projects for the event, others cut pieces from their old canvasses to form their paper prayers. The paper prayers vary from watercolors to collages to mixed media. They are hung from wires winding throughout the gallery, while 20 are framed and available by silent auction. The event runs from 5-8 p.m., and is open to the public. A $10 donation at the door goes to support people living with HIV/AIDS and entitles each patron to free food and champagne and the paper prayer of his or her choice.
Amy Wheeler, from the Shanti Foundation, said "the event has been so successful in the past that many artists who were involved in the event last year have called me ahead of time to inquire about this year's plans."
"If a lot of groups participate, I think Day Without Art will reach a lot of people," said Nora Kuehl at Dinnerware Gallery. "We have 24,000 patrons visiting the gallery every year, so we're sending out about that many mailers for 'Paper Prayers' Ä that's a pretty large number of people."
The Tucson AIDS Project has organized a program at the Fourth Avenue Social Club on Dec. 1 from 7-8:30 p.m. The Tucson AIDS Project's Latino health awareness project, "Salud es Poder," will fit in nicely, as Thursdays are Latin nights at the Fourth Avenue Social Club.
From 7:45-8 p.m., the Tucson AIDS Project is planning a candlelight ceremony that will be held in coordination with the national Night Without Lights event. The ceremony will be followed by dancing "that will celebrate life now and respect the memory of those who have gone and keep on going," said Ernie Perez, program coordinator for "Salud es Poder."
The Tucson AIDS Project is also hosting an event Dec. 10 with the Tucson Pima Arts Council from 4-9 p.m. The AIDS Project has issued a call to Latino artists to present work that deals with AIDS issues and has also planned a lecture and entertainment. For more information about this event, call the Tucson AIDS Project at 322-6226.
For anonymous HIV testing, call the Pima County Health Department at 791-7676. For confidential HIV testing, call the Student Health Center at 621-6490.
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