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Art for AIDS

Wednesday, 17 August 2016 Written by // Wayne Bristow - Positive Life Categories // Social Media, Hobbies, Fundraisers, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Wayne Bristow

Art can be a powerful therapeutic tool and a good fundraiser too. Wayne Bristow facilitates a workshop with help from Art For AIDS International

Art for AIDS

Earlier this year I was approached by one of my peers who had the vision of hosting an art show between the two AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs) in our area. The idea was originally conceived last summer during Pride month. We now have a committee working on it but I will only to be a contributing artist. The decision was part of my need to limit the activities I get involved in; I can’t do it all. “No” has be a complete sentence.

Before leaving the planning committee I did share a few suggestions. I thought, instead of having only the few known artists among us be in the show, we could hold workshops to help people create art so they could be a part of the show too. I even offered to facilitate a workshop on digital photography. I received a few groans from some,; there were a couple that said they have no talent for art, they couldn’t draw a straight line, even if they had a ruler.

Artists comes in many shapes, be it as a painter, a musician, or a writer, to name a few. Not many of us can do all of them but I believe each of us has at least one talent, something we do that no one else does' it could be one’s hobby.

While planning our annual ‘Survive To Thrive’ retreat we were asked to think of some activities that promote self-care. Every year we do a collage or body mapping to help identify where we are in life, what and who is important to us. For some, it can be a very powerful tool. I remember cringing when the subject of collages was brought up , I’ve never enjoyed the activity because I’m not good at the visual form of expressing my feelings.

But my mind went to work...

Going back a few years to the time I decided to do social media work, when I had my Facebook and Twitter accounts ready to go, I typed “AIDS” and “HIV” into the search box. If you want to know who to follow, this is the quickest way to find them. Within seconds hundreds of names of organizations and people doing the work filled my screen. I clicked until they told me I had reached my limit. Who knew some programs had limits……..Twitter apparently did.

One organization that stood out to me was ‘Art For AIDS International’. I clicked on the tab to see these magnificent pieces of art created by children in Africa and other parts of the world. What made them unique was that they were collages. Pictures from (I guessed at the time) National Geographic are torn or cut, then layered or woven to create a totally different image. I was literally in awe. I went online and found a couple of videos featuring the work of the organization and I learned that their gallery was just down the highway from me in London, Ontario.

So you see where I’m going with this story, right?

“Art for AIDS International is a registered charitable organization based in Canada dedicated to raising funds and awareness for women and children affected by HIV and AIDS. We do this by encouraging young people to play an active and creative role in the global AIDS response through art.”

I thought of the art show and I thought of the collage we would probably make again this year at ‘Survive To Thrive’. I thought we could create something like “Art For AIDS” and this way everyone would have something to contribute to the art show. I put the idea on the table, and promised to bring more information to the next meeting.

Eventually we had enough information to say “yes - let’s do this”.

But then it dawned on me; maybe I should check with “Art For AIDS International” to see if I’m able to copy their idea. Do I need permission - am I stealing someone else’s work?

I sent off a message to Hendrikus Bervoets, the founder of the organization explaining what I had hoped to do. It was about a week later that Hendrikus responded. He wanted me to call him because he had a few questions. I told him who we were. I gave him a rough estimate of how many people would participate and what our goal was. I told him I would facilitate the workshop because we didn’t have funding to be able to bring someone in. He proceeded to explain the process of a workshop and the legalities and then he offered to come in and facilitate the workshop free of charge. I was surprised and taken off guard, I had to say, “yes” right away.

From their site: “Art for AIDS International is a registered charitable organization based in Canada dedicated to raising funds and awareness for women and children affected by HIV and AIDS. We do this by encouraging young people to play an active and creative role in the global AIDS response through art.”

The day of the workshop I was excited but I didn’t know what to expect. The other participants kept asking questions and I had very few answers. I was going to find out when they did. From what I was able to research online, this workshop was presented primarily to school children and I’m thinking how unique it is that some of us are HIV-positive adults living in Canada benefiting from a program for awareness in Africa. This was going to be something very meaningful to me.

After my introduction, Hendrikus took over the workshop, telling his story of how and why it led him to create Art For AIDS. The history of his work and the artwork itself had everyone captivated and – well his humour was right on target, it went over well. His message was very enlightening. One thing that stood out for me was when he spoke of the grandmothers who were raising their grandchildren. The parents, aunts and uncles of these children were gone. A whole generation of people – gone.

When looking at the materials we would use and the examples on the table, it appeared a little challenging. Where do I start? But we were lucky to witness a first-hand demonstration - Hendrikus made two pieces as we watched. When completed he had us guess numbers to win them, and I had the second choice for one. Yay!

Then it was our turn to create. Everyone dove into the huge selection of photos in front of them. They received their glue and they went to work. Hendrikus overlooked each piece as i was being created and offered suggestions. Then, like a proud teacher he held up each of our pieces to show everyone in the room. The result was an amazing collection of art and 19 new artists. I felt I had accomplished my goal.

Art Pieces shown here: Top right - Wayne Bristow  Bottom Left - Lynn Cashubec  Bottom Right - Hendrikus Bervoet.

It wasn’t long before participants came up to me to say, “this workshop rocked”, and “it was one of the best workshops ever”. I am so thankful that Hendrikus and Art For AIDS were willing to do this for us and help us create something for ourselves and them. I think we all came away with more knowledge and understanding of our part in this fight against the stigma we all face living with HIV.

We were able to visit the gallery in London later and received the grand tour. It was amazing to see what the end result will look like for our artwork. Each piece will be photographed and we will receive three copies of each, at a nominal price! We will then be allowed to sell them with the proceeds going to Art For AIDS and to our organizations. There is even the chance that our creations might be sold somewhere else in the world.

If you’re searching for something different in a workshop, I highly recommend this one. All that is required is to invite them in and have a big space with plenty of tables. They bring all the supplies. For information see the links below.

Art For AIDS International:



Twitter: @ArtforAIDSInt

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