The AIDS Memorial Quilt and More…

If you are a current student at SLC, you probably received an email about a part of the AIDS Memorial Quilt that is on campus. You should take the time to check it out before you go on winter break. The lobby of the Performing Arts Center (part of the building closest to Westlands) exhibits it through Tuesday, December 14th.

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AIDS Ribbon on the White House

…And while I have your attention, I wanted to share some links that may be of interest.

Women and HIV/AIDS in the United States (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Grief Knows No Color: Adding Diversity to the AIDS Quilt by Rebecca Gross (NEA Arts Magazine)

Call My Name Workshop Program (The AIDS Quilt)

Mark your calendar: March 10th is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

*Photo by White House photographer Chuck Kennedy. (http://ow.ly/phIa3071Wia)

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For My Father

My father died of AIDS in 1993. His name was Michael ‘hiv’ Norman, also known as Tanya Ransom. My father was a drag queen, a playwright, an artist, and most importantly to me, he was my father. The AIDS crisis is not over. It is 17 years after his death, and still we are fighting the disease which killed him. Still, people are unable to get medication because the drugs cost far too much. Still, we struggle to educate our youth about a disease which kills relentlessly. Still, there are those who believe that AIDS is a plague for gay people, and is sent by God to purge them from this earth.

AIDS does not discriminate based on age, gender, sexuality or creed. AIDS is preventable by wearing a condom and being knowledgeable your sexual heath.

My father was one of many artists to die in the epidemic; many of my family friends died in the 1990s. My mother attended more funerals than weddings in her 20s, and I still fear for those people I know whose lives are controlled by the disease. This is not the future I hoped for when I began educating people about the disease as a child, this is not the future I want for my children, or for anyone else’s children. This is not the future I want for our world.

Today is World AIDS Day. Get Tested. Act Up, Act Now. Fight AIDS.

— Elsa Sjunneson-Norman

David Wojnarowicz Censored on World AIDS Day

image courtesy of the Queer Cultural Center

Adding insult to injury, I got this news about the censorship of a David Wojnarowicz piece at the National Portrait Museum on World AIDS Day. David Wojnarowicz was an artist who passed away in 1992 due to AIDS-related illness; he used a variety of media, like collage, text, and video, to share his experiences as a working-class prostitute and young, gay man with a world that was largely not ready to hear these stories. He inspired me as a high school student while I attempted to use the art media around me to construct narratives that I didn’t find in the mainstream.

My fellow queer/feminist art enthusiast and librarian pro, Kate Angell, sent me this article by Blake Gopnik at the Washington Post. Gopnik makes great arguments against censorship in art and highlights a different interpretation of Wojnarowicz’s video piece in question, “A Fire in My Belly.” The piece is a 30-minute meditation on Peter Hujar, an artist, colleague, and former lover of Wojnarowicz’s, who also passed away due to AIDS complications. Continue reading

Raising the RENT: Reflections on Community, Sexuality and Musical Theatre

by Victoria Sollecito

[It’s] this gypsy world of people who are just so appreciative of each other’s individuality! where some people are super-gay and have girlfriends or boyfriends for twenty years, and others swing both ways—or are straight and have a wife but they’re okay with gay men giving them foot massages and don’t freak out. And you’re singing about that: no day but today, and there’s only us and there’s only this, and don’t regret… You can see young couples, old-guy couples, clutching each other, openly sobbing…And you’re singing at them, to them, sobbing too. It’s very cathartic. And it certainly put to rest my weird personal concerns, because there’s a much bigger picture.[1]

– Openly gay actor Neil Patrick Harris on his time in the cast of RENT

RENT began as a rock re-imagining of a classic opera created by a precocious up-and-coming musical theatre composer in the early days of his career. What it has become, in the sixteen years since it was first produced, is nothing less than legendary. [2] Set almost exclusively in the East Village neighborhood known as Alphabet City, Jonathan Larson’s RENT follows a group of friends through a single year, from one Christmas Eve to the next, and charts the trajectory of their lives individually and together. Art, love and mortality are at the heart of the show, and creator Jonathan Larson’s script and score explore what those themes meant for Gen X New Yorkers, treating questions of sexuality, drug use, poverty, artistic integrity, isolation, community and, most notably, life and death in the face of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Despite its controversial subject matter, RENT was an almost instant critical and commercial hit. The genesis of its story was in a harsh and dangerous New York; the first production of the show was mounted in 1994, the same year former U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani became mayor. The show’s development and eventual premiere on Broadway unfolded as the new mayor began cracking down, cleaning up and forever changing the landscape of New York City. In 1996, following the sudden death of its creator, the intentionally incendiary show about the struggles of living and dying in New York, became a Tony, Obie, Drama Desk and Pulitzer prize winning musical for a new generation. RENT maintained a dedicated, loyal and extremely enthusiastic fan following well into the new millennium, extending its run several times before finally closing in the fall of 2008.[3] Continue reading