POSITIVE ART: Ten Years, Ten Artists

 

        I first saw the Names Project's AIDS Memorial Quilt in the winter of 1987. My visit to the Quilt was an overwhelming experience of sorrow and grief, mixed with awe of the human spirit of love and creativity that produced the most effective collaboratively-made public art I had ever witnessed. This single visit on a damp gray Saturday in December, revealed to me the devastation that this disease had imposed on artists and my community. The Quilt moved me to action. Soon after seeing it, I contacted local AIDS service organizations and state funding sources, and began a project that we later named Positive Art.

        Positive Art began as a community art project in October of 1988, with financial support from an Artist-in-Residence Grant from the California Arts Council, and in-kind support and sites at Rest Stop Support Center, in San Francisco, and The Center for AIDS Services, in Oakland. I conceived it as a project that would provide support to artists living with HIV/AIDS by offering free studio space, art supplies, grant writing assistance, exhibition opportunities, and teaching positions. A parallel component would offer free visual arts classes and workshops to all with HIV concerns at all levels of artistic experience. These classes would be facilitated by several HIV positive artists and me on a weekly basis. Since that first year we've received nine years of funding from the California Arts Council. We have also had additional generous support from many private foundations, including the LEF Foundation, the David and Reva Logan Foundation, and the Horizons Foundation. These grants have enabled Positive Art to provide free visual arts classes at several AIDS support service organizations in San Francisco and the East Bay, in Northern California.

        Today our project is facilitated by Bob Corti, Nancer LeMoins, Marcos Reyes, and me. We offer our free classes at the following Bay Area locations: The Center for AIDS Services in Oakland, The Derek Silva Community, and Mytree Hospice, both in San Francisco, and AIDS Community Network in Richmond. Our activities have made it possible to present professional community-based exhibitions and public events at cafés, colleges, galleries, art centers and museums, both locally and nationally, for the past ten years. These exhibitions have resulted in the education of the viewers about the myriad issues surrounding AIDS, art and community.

        We feel very fortunate and proud that our community arts project has supported the creativity and career paths of all of the Positive Art facilitators and introduced a renewed quality of life to all of our project participants. We look forward to the day when our services will not be needed and AIDS will be in our past. We dedicate "Ten Years, Ten Artists" to Barry Fredrick, Dave Reidman and Tom Trabbic. You are in our hearts, and you live in our memories.

--Sharon Sisken
December 1, 1998



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