Day Without Art

Day Without Art

An AIDS memorial sculpture in Brighton, U.K. Flickr user Dominic Alves

In Bangor, Maine, art galleries were scheduled to shroud their objects usually available for sale.

In Salisbury, North Carolina, black cloths were to drape over public art.

In Salt Lake City, performers were to help host a candlelight vigil, with attendees asked to wear all red, the color of a particular ribbon.

In Baltimore, a church was to display portions of an iconic, tragic quilt.

In cyberspace, the Getty Museum’s website featured a short film and a page filled with sobering statistics.

Also online, one of the Kardashians vowed to stay off Facebook and cease Tweeting until a million dollars was raised.

And in New York City, in addition to an evening rally to be held in Washington Square Park, many of the city’s famous landmarks were scheduled to go dark for an hour. That list included the Brooklyn Bridge, Radio City Music Hall, Museum of Modern Art, and thirty-five Broadway theaters.

What was the connection that tied all of the above activities – and much, much more – together? Wednesday, December 1 was the annual Day Without Art, a sibling to World Aids Day.

This column’s deadline came prior to learning if some or all the above had indeed taken place as planned. But even if not, there were presumably, per usual, thousands of other such gatherings and remembrances occurring across the country, and the world.

Day Without Art – or Day With(Out) Art, as the program’s originators now prefer – has been around for twenty-one years. Here’s how those originators, the group called Visual Aids, describe the project:

DAY WITH ART has evolved since its inception in 1989 to become a day with art – a collaborative project by over 6,000 arts communities around the world which demonstrates the power of art to raise awareness of the ongoing AIDS pandemic. For one day – December 1st/World AIDS Day each year – it encourages the arts communities to remember those who have died from AIDS related illnesses and brings together diverse audiences in shared commemoration.”

Visual Aids also came up with the concept, in 1991, of wearing the red ribbon – cited above in this story’s mention of Salt Lake City.

Does wearing a ribbon, attending a vigil, or not being able to view your favorite sculpture for a day have a direct affect on stopping HIV or curing AIDS? Obviously not. But the indirect affects can be substantial.

City / Culture has heard the arts curator, administrator, and author Adolfo V. Nodal mention in speeches and writings how the work of creative types can do wonders at calling attention to, explaining, and further galvanizing support for social, health, environmental, and other critical, languishing issues.

Nodal cites Al Gore and Davis Guggenheim’s global warming film as an example of taking a complex and overlooked issue and turning it more mainstream. He also cites the AIDS Memorial Quilt – mentioned above in this story as being at a Baltimore Church – for doing the same.

The Day With – or Without – Art is another urgent and significant example of this.

Read past City / Culture columns here. Email the columnist at lathinktank [at] gmail [dot] org.

Tags: new york cityculturebaltimoresalt lake city

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