Lehigh University
Lehigh University

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Lehigh marks AIDS Awareness Day with “day without art”

The pieces of sculpture lining Memorial Walkway were shrouded to mark the Dec. 1 observance of World AIDS Awareness Day.

The observance at Lehigh was organized by Silagh White, administrative director of the university’s ArtsLehigh program, who has participated in “Day Without Art” activities over the past few years.

“I can’t be an honest artist without doing something on this day,” says White, who was joined in her effort by a number of students representing various groups on campus, including The Movement, the Progressive Student Alliance and others.

The first event of this kind took place in New York City on Dec. 1, 1989, after the AIDS-related death of several artists prompted their friends and patrons to honor their loss in a meaningful way. Some galleries closed their doors or shrouded their paintings, and many theatres went dark.

On a national level, “Day Without Art” has evolved since its inception, and is interpreted in varying ways in more than 6,000 arts communities. In each case, the observances are intended to demonstrate the power of art to raise awareness of the ongoing AIDS pandemic and to remember those who died from the disease.

At Lehigh, White sees the annual event as a way to draw the community together through the arts.

“By shrouding our art,” she says, “we draw attention to this worthwhile cause, bringing to mind something that is ever-present in our world, but not always consciously aware of.”

White notes that the nature of shrouding is also connected with burial rituals, and that many of the statues along Memorial Walkway take on a spectral appearance, and offer a ghostly reminder of the lives lost to AIDS.

The hope of White and her fellow organizers is that the row of shrouded statues sparks conversation about the topic among students, and its significance to the campus community.

“We want them to talk about it,” White says. “Speaking out loud about the issue is another way to make it real. It's very challenging to stay motivated when the world is asking individuals to care about so many things: Katrina clean up, the war in Iraq, radiation poisoning, poverty, other medical research and patient survival stories. This act is intended to spread awareness about something that is preventable.”

For more information about “A Day Without Art” observances, please go to visit visualaids.org.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Friday, December 01, 2006

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