The annual “Art4AIDS” art gallery opening was held on Wednesday evening, commemorating who have been affected by HIV/AIDS. It was the third of multiple HIV/AIDS-related events hosted in honor of World AIDS Week, which began with World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.
The event was hosted by the University of Connecticut’s Health Education Office and featured artwork created by students, faculty and staff to support those who are coping with HIV/AIDS.
Each work of art was created to raise awareness of the reality of HIV/AIDS, a potentially fatal disease that has affected millions of people around the world.
“More than 1.2 million people in the United States are living with the HIV infection,” said Colleen Vernola, Alcohol and Other Drug Educator at UConn. “Almost one in eight are unaware of their infection.”
The event featured an interactive poetry reading by Maggie Bender, who encouraged the audience to snap and call out if they agreed or disagreed with anything that she said while reading.
“Everyone is having sex,” Bender read. “Some people are doing it right now, which makes this everyone’s conversation.”
The artwork on the walls was not the only art form featured at the gallery. Two vocal ensembles each performed a variety of compositions, all of which were sung entirely a capella. The first to perform was Husky Hungama, UConn’s South Asian Fusion A Cappella group. The group sang a collection of multilingual songs, filling the room with spirit.
Following Husky Hungama was a performance by the Rolling Tones, a co-ed a cappella group at UConn known for their diverse repertoire of music. The rich tones produced by their voices resonated throughout the room, infusing the atmosphere with positivity and inspiration.
In addition to the vocal groups, UConn’s Hindi-Filmi Fusion dance team, Shah Rukh Conn, put on a dazzling performance with a multicultural medley of songs.
The numerous performances were incorporated into the event to recognize that the majority of those affected by the AIDS pandemic in the 80s and early 90s were members of the arts community.
“It is to honor for the folks who don’t have a voice and aren’t able to still be active in the community,” said Joleen Nevers, UConn's health education coordinator for wellness and prevention services.
After the three performances, everyone in attendance was invited to chat, munch on snacks and take a look at the artwork on display throughout the room. Despite the fact that HIV/AIDS can often be a difficult subject, the ambiance of the room was very positive.
“People are living longer with the disease, and there are some people who aren’t even converting to AIDS diagnosis,” Nevers said. “It’s a better time than it has been in the past.”
Casey Virgo is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.