Public Art to #LightTheFight for World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day takes place on the 1st December each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Begun in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day. The Village is a longtime home to the LGBTQ community and was home to St. Vincent’s Hospital, which was on the frontline of HIV/AIDS care as medicine began to tackle HIV/AIDS. In our neighborhoods, the impact and memories of AIDS run deep. We are home to the NYC AIDS Memorial Park, which is marking World AIDS Day this year with its incredible art and activism initiative #LightTheFight.

NYC AIDS Memorial. Photo by Mark Abrahams, care of the NYC AIDS Memorial

The NYC AIDS Memorial 

Founded in early 2011 as a grass-roots effort by Christopher Tepper and Paul Kelterborn, the AIDS Memorial is a 501c3 chaired by GVSHP member Keith Fox. The memorial sits at the gateway to a new public park adjacent to the former St. Vincent’s Hospital, which housed the city’s first and largest AIDS ward. The former St. Vincent’s is often considered the symbolic epicenter of the disease, and it figures prominently in The Normal Heart, Angels in America, and other important pieces of literature and art that tell the story of the plague in New York. The park site is also less than a block from the LGBT Community Center on 13th Street, where ACT-UP and other AIDS advocacy/support groups first organized, and it sits within blocks of the first headquarters of GMHC and the office of a doctor on W. 12th Street that Lambda Legal successfully prevented from being evicted for treating early AIDS patients. Furthermore, the site is a fulcrum of activity in the Village.

Arts and Education Initiative

Detail of Jenny Holzer’s installation of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” at the NYC AIDS Memorial

Keith Fox’s statement on the launch of the NYC AIDS Memorial Arts and Education Initiative reads:

“With the NYC AIDS Memorial Arts and Education Initiative, we will continue to honor the men, women, and children who have died of AIDS and to commemorate and celebrate the efforts of caregivers and activists who have devoted their lives to this cause. We’re thrilled to be able to launch this important initiative with a truly powerful and engaging art experience like #LightTheFight, and we’re extremely thankful for Jenny’s contribution to the initiative.”

The New York City AIDS Memorial Arts and Education Initiative will support interactive, experiential, digital, and site-specific educational and arts programming. The purpose of this initiative is to further the mission of the NYC AIDS Memorial to honor New York City’s 100,000+ men, women, and children who have died from AIDS, and to commemorate and celebrate the efforts of the caregivers and activists.


#LightTheFight for World AIDS Day 2018

The New York City AIDS Memorial is launching #LightTheFight as part of its new Arts and Education Initiative. #LightTheFight will deploy a fleet of trucks with animated texts created by the Jenny Holzer, the globally renowned visual artist, who turned Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself into the spiral artwork floor of the NYC AIDS Memorial (pictured above).

Selected and presented by Holzer, the writings by poets, activists, artists, educators, and people living with HIV and AIDS span a range of emotions from sorrow and fury to endurance and transcendence. The texts will be animated in black and white, with the occasional burst of color to amplify the messages and add emphasis. The trucks will stop at major NYC crossroads and sites of significance to the history of the AIDS crisis including:

Renderings of Jenny Holzer’s word light art around New York City from her work “It Is Guns,” 2018. Photo by Joe Carrotta, from the NYC AIDS Memorial website

World AIDS Day 2018

The #LightTheFight opening ceremony will begin at 4:30pm on December 1, 2018, featuring talks, poetry, music, and GHMC’s Out of the Darkness vigil beginning at 6:00. There will also be a “floral flash” created by Village designer Lewis Miller Design, installed within the AIDS Memorial around the fountain to celebrate and remember. And, keep an eye out for Holzer’s iconic words.

Learn more and RSVP here.

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