During the height of the AIDS epidemic, we lost millions of people on a global level.
Today, Dec. 1, 2015, marks World Aids Day -- a time for us to reflect on those that we have lost, those who are thriving and the advances our society has made when it comes to the prevention and treatment of HIV.
We still have a lot of work left to do in order to eradicate AIDS and HIV stigma is still alive and well, making it crucial that we honor the lives and work of those who died due to the disease. To that end, POBA, which describes itself as the "first virtual cultural arts center to celebrate the enduring and transformative power of creativity by featuring works of deceased 20th and 21st century artists, launched an exhibit today called "Art Lives" that elevates seven artists who died from AIDS, some well known and some obscure, in an effort to digitally preserve and honor their bodies of work.
POBA is also asking the public to nominate other outstanding artists that died of AIDS who they believe should also have their work showcased.
The Huffington Post chatted with Jennifer Cohen, Managing Director of Songmasters, which developed and operates POBA on behalf to the James Kirk Bernard Foundation, about the exhibit this week.
The Huffington Post: What is the overarching vision for this collection?
Jennifer Cohen: Where the Arts Live has launched the Art Lives initiative to help preserve and celebrate the creative legacies of a generation of artists in all media -- known and unknown, professional as well as amateur -- whose lives and work were cut short by AIDS. By highlighting a wide-range of talents who were nominated by DIFFA, Visual AIDS and LifeBEAT, POBA is also inviting other organizations and the public at large to participate in this celebration by nominating exceptional artists -- painters, photographers, dancers, designers, musicians and more -- they know who died of AIDS whose work they believe should be shared with others through displays on POBA. We will be accepting such nominations through February but all exhibits will have a permanent home on POBA.
Why is it so important for us to preserve the work of these individuals in a digital context?
Many of those who passed in the devastating early waves of the AIDS epidemic died before the digital era. But for the few whose work is well-known or preserved in various libraries or museums, their work is in danger of being lost forever as time passes. Many of the creations exist only as photos, as analog tapes and as sketches or in other forms that can degrade with time. Still others have been relegated to storage, uncatalogued or preserved. Precious little, even that which has been donated to museums and libraries, is readily available for the public. Through POBA’s online displays we want to make their art available for all to discover and appreciate while also pointing to where they might learn more about their art and lives.
It will be the only online center actually featuring the creative work of those who have passed from AIDS and is completely open to the public for their discovery and enjoyment. These powerful creative voices may have passed away, but their creative legacies should live on. Art Lives is also meant to call attention to the ongoing fight against HIV/AIDS and the efforts of our partner organizations who continue to offer direct help, counseling and education to another generation still susceptible to this disease.
Who are the individuals featured in this collection?
[Of] the seven inaugural artists who were nominated by our three initial partner organizations, each has a very unique creative voice and style. In some cases it took POBA months to track down family members and others who might have access to their works. The circuitous paths we were led on in our journey to find these people underscores why it is important to embark on this project now before leads to these artists’ families and creative works becomes even harder to uncover.
What do you want people to take away from this collection?
All of us involved in the Arts Live initiative hope that through the permanent displays we are creating together with the public a new generation of art lovers can experience these amazing works and feel first-hand that although the talents that created them may have passed away, their art lives on.
Check out some other art featured in the Art Lives collection below or head here for more from POBA.