"Surviving and Thriving: AIDS, Politics, and Culture": A Traveling Exhibit

January 25, 2016

Collins Memorial Library, with support from Pierce County Aids Foundation:
Feb. 8 to March 14

– “It won’t kill you to spend time with a friend who has AIDS,” states a 1988 poster that shows a thin young man, alone in a blue room, with his head in his hands. The provocative poster, housed in a national collection of AIDS-related graphics, came from a time when misinformation and fear were almost as cruel as the disease itself to the thousands of AIDS/HIV sufferers. Too often, those diagnosed were shunned or even abandoned by family and friends.

This story and many others are documented in thefree exhibit,Surviving and Thriving—AIDS, Politics, and Culture, at Collins Memorial Library, University of Puget Sound, from Monday, Feb. 8, until Monday, March 14. The traveling exhibit of artwork, large poster panels, and memorabilia tells the stories of people who lived with AIDS, who died from it, or who were involved in tackling the national crisis.

The special Puget Sound exhibit will include artwork made by volunteers, staff, and advocates of Pierce County AIDS Foundation (PCAF), which has partnered with Collins Library. It will also include works by Puget Sound art students, who led a workshop at Tacoma Art Museum and designed a series of woodblocks that reflect HIV and its effects on individuals and communities.

A section of the famous NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display. The quilt was started in 1987 by a group of San Francisco strangers to document the lives of people whom they feared history would neglect. As the quilt traveled the country, it grew, and today it consists of more than 48,000 three-by-six-foot panels. The section on display is in memory of Scott McDowell, a prominent ceramics artist who grew up in Tacoma. Several pieces of McDowell’s pottery will be part of the exhibit.

In addition, the public is invited to a special free reception:

Surviving and Thriving: AIDS, Politics and Culture Public Reception 
Wednesday, Feb. 24
5–6 p.m.
Collins Memorial Library exhibit space, first floor
University of Puget Sound

The reception will give visitors the opportunity to view the exhibit and to hear from members of the community about the impact of AIDS. Janet Marcavage, associate professor of art and art history, will discuss the prints made by her students. Student dramaturg Adrian Kljucec ’17 and Jess K Smith ’05, assistant professor of theatre arts, will provide research about the hit Broadway play RENT, which will open at Puget Sound on Friday, Feb. 26. RENT tells the story of a group of young artists living in New York City under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.

Members of Pierce County AIDS Foundation also will be on hand to share personal experiences and to provide information on their community outreach programs. Visitors are asked to bring a canned food item as part of a food drive for the Emergency Food Network. The food collection will continue throughout the exhibit.

Surviving and Thriving, the title for the traveling exhibition from the U.S National Library of Medicine, comes from a 1987 book that promoted the idea that people could live with AIDS, not just die from it. The colorful posters and other items capture the public health messages of the day, including how to prevent the spread of AIDS, how to care for people, and how to talk to children about the disease.

Some of the posters are shocking. Some are moving. Some are educational. In their original lives, pasted on bus stops, on the sides of buildings, or in doctors’ waiting rooms, the documents provided a picture-card template of how society can react to a perceived calamity.

For directions and a map of the University of Puget Sound campus:pugetsound.edu/directions
For accessibility information please contact accessibility@pugetsound.edu or 253.879.3236, or visit pugetsound.edu/accessibility.

To see the full exhibit at the U.S. National Library of Medicine visit: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/survivingandthriving/index.html

Press photos of exhibits from Surviving & Thriving are available upon request.
Photos on page: From top right: Section of AIDS Memorial Quilt; Prints on AIDS topics; Ceramic by Scott McDowell (Photo by Rick Semple); Angel wings and memories art exhibit.

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