By Armando Bellmas

On December 1st, McColl Center for Art + Innovation artists-in-residence and staff observed World AIDS Day and Day Without Art. Our gallery was closed to the public. 

Community advocates from The Red Pump Project and Reserve Health joined us for a special “lunch and learn” session share more about HIV/AIDS prevention, care, education, and the intersection of art and activism. We also watched the Visual AIDS-commissioned video program, ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS.

Visual AIDS—a group of curators, art writers, and art professionals—organized the first Day Without Art in 1989. It was a collective call for “‘mourning and action in response to the AIDS crisis’ that would celebrate the lives and achievements of lost colleagues and friends; encourage caring for all people with AIDS; educating diverse publics about HIV infection; and finding a cure.”

Each year since its inception, and as more artists have become involved with the group, Visual AIDS has initiated numerous artist-led projects “focused on the AIDS pandemic, and to encourage programming of artists living with HIV.” Since 2010, Visual AIDS has worked with artists and filmmakers to internationally distribute videos to museums, art institutions, schools, and AIDS organizations. 

This year’s project, ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS, features seven new and innovative short videos prioritizing Black narratives within the ongoing AIDS pandemic. From the project’s page at Visual AIDS:

In spite of the impact of HIV/AIDS within Black communities, these stories and experiences are constantly excluded from larger artistic and historical narratives. In 2016 African Americans represented 44% of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States. Given this context, it is increasingly urgent to feature a myriad of stories that consider and represent the lives of those housed within this statistic. ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS seeks to highlight the voices of those that are marginalized within broader Black communities nationwide, including queer and trans people.

Watch ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS on Vimeo or below, and visit our resources collection to take action in Charlotte and beyond.