VISUAL AIDS BOSTON (VAB)
VAB (Visual AIDS Boston), was established in 1994 and was under the umbrella of the Massachusetts Artists Foundation. Visual AIDS New England established in 1989 by area arts administrators, was primarily doing press relations for New England arts organizations around World AIDS Day programing, but was not working directly with the HIV/AIDS community and was not providing needed services for artists with HIV/AIDS. In 1993 the Artists Foundation began a dialogue with artists from the HIV/AIDS Community and HIV/AIDS service providers on ways to better address the needs of artists living with HIV/AIDS. The results of this dialogue was the creation of VAB in 1994. VAB is a volunteer grass roots group comprised of artists working in all media, arts professionals, artists run organizations, cultural institutions, social service organizations, businesses and other concerned individuals. In recent years Boston, as well as other major cities, has endured budget cuts, losses in personnel, and apathy. Thus resulting in less and less attention given to World AIDS Day programming and the fight against the spread of the virus. Among the new questions raised are the issues of burn-out, bereavement overload, and the deaths of artists/ activists who have left a void that has yet to be filled with new leadership. The term "Balancing Act" is an accurate description of the state of the pandemic, the art world, and for everyone managing the difficulties of the disease. The art community will no doubt rise to these new challenges and those yet to come.
The goals of VAB were:
Technical Support: VAB provided technical support to other arts and service organizations who are working with the HIV/AIDS arts community. VAB has provided technical support to the ICA, The Boston Center for the Arts, and the MFA (Boston) on their World AIDS Day events and VAB has also provided technical support to The Rose Art Museum for the 1998 Robert Farber retrospective and The Boston Living Center for its art programs.
Programs and Service for Artists Living with HIV/AIDS: VAB provided technical support to any artists from the HIV/AIDS Community (help with writing their artists statement, resume, where to send their work, etc.).
Exhibitions: In 1996 VAB worked with Visual AIDS /The Archive Project (NYC) to ensure that Massachusetts artists from the HIV/AIDS community were represented in the largest national show of art work from the HIV community exhibited at the Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts in Feb-March 96. VAB co-sponsored exhibitions from the HIV/AIDS arts community since 1994 at such sites as CityPlace, FPAC Community Gallery, and the Distillery. VAB also cosponsored readings from the HIV/AIDS community with 96 Inc- a writers & artists collective/collaborative.
Past World AIDS Day VAB Annual Events/Programs: VAB produced the only Annual World AIDS Day (WAD) flyer listing all events in the Boston area (est. 1994-2000), coordinates exhibits from the HIV/AIDS arts community, and VAB collaborates with AIDS Action Committee, WFNX 101.7 (FM) and the Boston Phoenix on the only World AIDS Day radiothon in the country 1994-1999).
The Virtual Collection: In 1998-1999, VAB collaborated with the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS to ensure that Boston area artists from the HIV/AIDS community were included in the Virtual Collection. The Virtual Collection is a database of digital images created by visual artists with HIV/AIDS. These images will be a central resource for understanding the AIDS crisis in the years to come. By using the most sophisticated tools available, the Estate Project will ensure continued access, study and presentation of the cultural legacy created by the artistic community during the AIDS crisis. The Goals of the Virtual Collection are: to digitization the slides of work by artists with HIV/AIDS in all U.S. archives; to develope a national database of images for historians and curators; to disseminate visual information from the AIDS crisis thus assisting in historical assessment of this time period; and to continue the life line of the work of artists lost during the AIDS crisis.
The Boston Archive Project: VAB was in the process of fully establishing the Archive Project in Boston, but sadly was never able to raise the needed funds to do so. The Archive Project was founded in 1994 by Visual AIDS (NYC). It provides 1) access to legal assistance to enable artists to draw up a will and provide for their estate. 2) services of photo documentation, giving artists free slides of their work which they can use to seek gallery representation or grants. 3) provides a record/public archive of all the slides taken by the Archive Project (or duplication of existing slides of the artists' work). 4) helps artists exhibit their work/provides exhibition opportunities. The Archive Project is a resource for curators, historians, journalists, artists and those who are interested from the public. In the words of Visual AIDS (NYC) Board Member/former Executive Director, Nick Debs, "An important aspect of Archive Project is that its services are available to all artists with HIV/AIDS. The Project does not pass judgment on the basis of what might be considered success. For those artists who have operated at the margins of already marginalized art communities, The Project will guarantee their works' survival and exposure. The Archive project can act as a historian cannot act. It will preserve a tremendous amount of experience and hold it out to the future saying all of this happened, all of this was real- use the information well."
Unlike the NYC Archive project, which only focuses on the Visual Arts, the Boston Archive Project was to be a depository for other genres: literary works, manuscripts, scripts, plays, video documentation of theater, dance, spoken word, documentation of World AIDS Day Events, film/video works by artists etc. The Boston Public Library was willing to house the Archive Project "Records". The original collaborators for the Archive Project (Boston) were: VAB, Visual AIDS (NYC), Boston Public Library (BPL), Photographic Resource Center (PRC), and HIV/AIDS Service Providers (Boston Living Center, AIDS Action Committee (AAC), etc.).
Some important national links:
Visual AIDS (NYC)
The Estate Project for Artists wth AIDS
The Virtual Collection
Key Publications from the Estate Project
Some important statewide links:
Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts (for legal assistance in MA)
End of Life Commission of Massachusetts
Massachusetts HIV/AIDS Organizations