Visual AIDS utilizes art to fight AIDS by provoking dialogue, supporting HIV+ artists and preserving a legacy, because AIDS is not over.

Statement of Values

Founded in 1988, Visual AIDS is the only contemporary arts organization fully committed to raising AIDS awareness and creating dialogue around HIV issues today, by producing and presenting visual art projects, exhibitions, public forums and publications - while assisting artists living with HIV/AIDS. We are committed to preserving and honoring the work of artists with HIV/AIDS and the artistic contributions of the AIDS movement. We embrace diversity and difference in our staff, leadership, artists and audiences.

In the fight against AIDS, we believe:

  • Effective AIDS advocacy seeks to address the underlying and related issues that contribute to and exacerbate the pandemic, such as poverty, homophobia and racism.
  • Our work affirms the visibility, dignity and rights of people living with HIV and AIDS.
  • HIV/AIDS prevention is about harm reduction that is guided by science, not ideology.
  • We draw from the deep history of art activism, as with our Red Ribbon Project and Day With(out) Art.
  • Visual AIDS promotes art that is public, inclusive and accessible.
  • Art that takes risks promotes and encourages reflection, dialogue and action.

Art is our weapon of choice.

Utilizing Contemporary Art

Visual AIDS uses the power of art as a catalyst to engage public response, dialogue and scholarship around HIV/AIDS through presenting contemporary art exhibitions, artist projects, public events and publications.   We produce  catalogs and printed matter. Year-round we collaborate with teachers and students to facilitate research and special projects.

Artist Projects • Always at the forefront of contemporary art practice around HIV/AIDS, Visual AIDS annually produces and distributes free artist designed AIDS awareness project, including posters, stickers, safer sex kits, tote bags, and more - continuing the legacy of such iconic Visual AIDS projects as The Red Ribbon.

Exhibitions • Capturing critical and audience acclaim, our art exhibitions and Day With(out) Art programs contemplate the deep cultural history of AIDS activism and examine the relationship between HIV and contemporary culture.

Publications • Visual AIDS produces exhibition catalogues and art publications featuring artists, writers, and activists in dialogue, and publishes monographs on under-recognized artists to preserve work that might otherwise be lost.

Public Programs • From artist talks to film screenings and panels, our public programs create environments to shape relevant and responsive conversations while building longlasting partnerships and engaging diverse communities.

Artists With HIV & Artists Lost to AIDS

The Artist+ Registry and Archive Project is the largest database and registry of works by visual artists with HIV/AIDS, and is a public resource to educate and inspires contemporary art exhibitions, public programs, publications, and research by curators, art historians, activists, and students.  The Archive Project was founded in 1994 as a slide and research library to preserve the work of artists with HIV/AIDS. The online Artist+ Registry was launched in 2012 and features digitized versions of many of the original slides held in the Archive Project as well as new work added directly by Artist Members. Together, we use the Archive Project and Artist+ Registry to teach about AIDS art activism and the lasting importance of HIV-positive visual artists. The online database offers a greater forum for artists living with HIV to expose their work to a worldwide audience, while preserving a legacy for artists lost to AIDS.  Visual AIDS provides free services to HIV+ artists, including artist web pages, documentation of artwork, advocacy, exhibition opportunities and Artists Materials Grants, to empower artists to create. Visual AIDS welcomes any and all professional visual artists living with HIV and the estates of artists who have died of AIDS to join the Artist+ Registry.  


Visual AIDS was founded in 1988 by art critic and writer Robert Atkins, curators Gary Garrels,Thomas Sokolowski and William Olander (1951-1989).  Visual AIDS was one of the first national initiatives to record the impact of the AIDS pandemic on the artistic community. It brought together the arts and AIDS communities through its renowned national projects Day Without Art, Night Without Light and The Ribbon Project.

Day Without Art launched on December 1, 1989 as "a day of action and mourning" in which thousands of arts institutions and organizations around the world unify together to demonstrate the power of art to raise awareness of the ongoing AIDS pandemic. On December 1, 1990, Visual AIDS presented the first Night Without Light, cities nationwide turn off their architectural lights as visual reminder of the impact of AIDS.

The (Red) Ribbon Project was created in 1991 by the Visual AIDS Artists Caucus, a group of artists who wished to create a visual symbol to demonstrate compassion for people living with AIDS and their caregivers.

The Archive Project was co-founded by David Hirsh and Frank Moore in 1994 in response to a growing concern about the loss and destruction of the work by artists who died of AIDS related causes.  The goal of the Archive Project was to document the work of artists with HIV to ensure a cultural legacy.  The Archive Project was launched online as the Artist+ Registry in 2012.

For a full history of Visual AIDS projects and events, visit our Timeline.

Board of Directors

Brice Brown, President

Patrick Owens, VP

Lucas Michael, Secretary

Debbie Li, Treasurer

Lisa Dent

Thierry Dumoulin

Jennifer Morton

Ralph M. Randazzo, Esq.

Steed Taylor


Directors Emeriti

Patrick O'Connell

Anne Hutchins-Orsi

Nick Debs

Barbara Hunt-McLanahan

Amy Sadao  



Robert Atkins

Gary Garrels

William Olander

Thomas Sokolowski



Nelson Santos
Executive Director

Esther McGowan
Associate Director

Alex Fialho
Programs Manager