Welcome to the Artists Responding Blog

The arts have always played a critical role in examining challenging issues, exploring diverging perspectives, and communicating personal truths. In the thirty-year history of the AIDS epidemic, they have played an instrumental role in moving our collective dialog forward and inspiring individual and collective action. The Graying of AIDS is, at its core, a photojournalistic project that aspires to increase awareness and dialog around issues related to aging and HIV/AIDS; it is by no means the first body of creative work to address these concerns through the arts, and there is much to learn from those who have come before.

We recognize that one of the primary target audiences for The Graying of AIDS – students, educators, and providers working in the care-giving professions – may, because of age or lack of exposure, find it difficult to imagine or relate to the daily realities of living with HIV/AIDS or living as an older adult in America today, and we believe that the arts can serve as a powerful tool to change that. We also recognize the power of the arts to ask critical questions, challenge assumptions, comfort, inspire, and activate audiences, regardless of professional calling, age, or HIV-status.

Through this project blog, “Artists Responding to Aging and to HIV/AIDS,” we hope to:

  • introduce new audiences to some of the uniquely compelling work that has resulted from people in the literary, visual, media, and performing arts grappling with HIV/AIDS and/or aging;
  • support educators interested in integrating creative work into their classroom curricula by introducing them to new work and connecting them with a few related resources that may help them place the work in some context; and
  • underscore the power of the arts to move, connect, and challenge people, and to effect change.

Rather than create an exhaustive catalog of work, we aim instead to compile an “anecdotal bibliography,” a less complete but hopefully more personally compelling list of artists’ responses to the AIDS epidemic and to aging. To do this, we have been inviting older adults living with HIV as well as people from the arts, HIV/AIDS, and aging services and research communities to reflect on individual pieces or bodies of work that have been particularly meaningful for them, or that have affected the way they think about aging, HIV/AIDS, or aging with the virus.

The replies thus far have varied greatly – in the medium selected, in the reasons cited, even in the way people have interpreted our question – and we look forward to continuing to highlight increasingly diverse work over the coming year. Some of the individuals and work cited will surely be more familiar than others to many readers; some might be considered more broadly accessible, some more controversial. Over the years, some people have deemed some of the work created in response to HIV/AIDS in particular to be “offensive.” We celebrate the free society that protects both the rights of artists to express their truths and the rights of viewers to embrace, struggle with, or reject those truths. Some of this work may not be appropriate for some classrooms, but informed decisions require access to information. We invite you to explore the work discussed in this blog and decide for yourself.