December 1st marks the annual observance of World AIDS Day, one of the most recognized international days. This year, 2008, marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day.
Day Without Art (DWA) began on December 1st 1989 as a national day of action and mourning, aligned with World AIDS Day, in response to the AIDS epidemic. Over 800 U.S. art and AIDS groups participated in the first Day Without Art by shutting down museums, sending staff to volunteer at AIDS services, or sponsoring special exhibitions of work about AIDS. Over the years, Day Without Art has grown into a collaborative project in which an estimated 8,000 national and international museums, galleries, art centers, AIDS service organizations, libraries, high schools and colleges take part. Oak Hills High School has been a part of this tradition for over 15 years.
In 1997, Day Without Art switched the approach to a Day WITH Art, in order to recognize and promote increased programming of cultural events that draw attention to the continuing pandemic. Day With(out) Art highlights art projects intended to inspire communities to action by creating art and awareness about AIDS.
The artist’s role as social commentator and activist has been engrained in the history of civilization and culture. Art and its creation as a response to social and political issues can be a powerful catalyst in influencing and raising public awareness that can result in positive social change. Art as a social weapon, or commentator, has long been linked with societies. German expressionist painter Kathe Kollwitz created artworks that centered on themes such as poverty, unemployment and worker exploitation during WWI and WWII. Diego Rivera and the other Mexican muralists used their art as a tool to vocalize for the oppressed against their oppressors; they expressed their opinions and message to the literate and illiterate alike, and earned worldwide recognition. In April 1937, the world learned the shocking truth about the Nazi Luftwaffe’s bombing of Guernica, Spain, a civilian target, through Pablo Picasso’s great anti-war painting, Guernica. American Pop artist Keith Haring created public works to raise awareness about issues of drug abuse, corruption in government and societies such as the Berlin Wall in Germany and South Africa under apartheid.
To mark the 20th anniversary of this event, the Art Department at Oak Hills High School will be focusing on the positive and influential role the arts play in AIDS activism. Artworks remain uncovered as a way to draw attention to the possible future roles our current art students may play in our globalized future through expression of ideas in their works as well as the creation of educational messages.
The Art Department would like to encourage everyone to reflect upon the impact of the AIDS pandemic on artists, entertainers, athletes, friends, and neighbors across the world and take part in raising awareness and educating peers about the disease.