World AIDS Day
In 1989 in response to the worsening AIDS crisis and coinciding with the World Health Organization’s second annual World AIDS Day on December 1, Visual AIDS organized the first Day Without Art. A Visual AIDS committee of art workers (curators, writers, and art professionals) sent out a call for “mourning and action in response to the AIDS crisis” that would celebrate the lives and achievements of lost colleagues and friends; encourage caring for all people with AIDS; educating diverse publics about HIV infection; and finding a cure. More than 800 arts organizations, museums and galleries throughout the U.S. participated by shrouding artworks and replacing them with information about HIV and safer sex, locking their doors or dimming their lights, and producing exhibitions, programs, readings, memorials, rituals, and performances. Visual AIDS coordinated this network mega-event by producing a poster and handling promotion and press relations.
During the early nineties, as artists became more intimately involved with the group, Visual AIDS initiated numerous projects that included: A Night Without Light (the dimming of the New York skylight); the Electric Blanket (a nationwide outdoor slide projection with text and images); Positive Actions (an exhibition-competition for a television PSA held simultaneously in three NYC venues); the Broadside Project (distribution of copyright-free text and images by well-known artists targeted to specific audiences); and ambitious media collaborations, including AIDS Timeline by Group Material and national televised events. Artists created many of the most moving actions, including Robert Farber's Every Ten Minutes. By the mid-90’s, Day Without Art attracted more than 8,000 participants throughout the world.
In 1998, for its tenth anniversary, Day Without Art became Day With(out) Art. Visual AIDS added the parentheses to highlight the ongoing inclusion of art projects focused on the AIDS pandemic, and to encourage programming of artists living with HIV.
Since 2010, Visual AIDS has worked with artists and filmmakers to internationally distribute videos to museums, art institutions, schools and AIDS organizations. To mark the 25th anniversary of Day With(out) Art in 2014, Visual AIDS distributed Alternate Endings, a program of commissioned videos by seven artists and collectives that was screened internationally and is available online to share widely.