By Daisy Oliver
(Art for Aids Volunteer Coordinator)

Sometimes an idea grabs hold of one’s imagination and won’t let go.

I was first grabbed by Art for AIDS International on Dec 1st, 2006. World AIDS Day is an odd date for an anniversary but it marks the occasion when I descended the stairs into a church basement and stumbled upon an Art for AIDS display. A charming young man gave me the spiel. He introduced himself as JP Bervoets, son of founder and current art director, Hendrikus Bervoets. He was very persuasive. I would later recognize this as a family trait. I was immediately hooked on  the Bervoets’ vision.

Now a year after that first encounter, my home is adorned with a collection of Kids for Kids prints which continues to grow. They have also become my primary source of gift giving. In addition, I am a volunteer with the organization doing what I can when needed.

I am now the Volunteer Coordinator and also Art for AIDS No. 1 fan.

It goes back to having my imagination captured. Art for AIDS swept me off my feet with its concept that combines the themes of individual artistic expression and global social justice. In a world that frequently feels like it is going to hell in a hand basket, I recognized immediately that Art for AIDS exuded a type of transformative energy that is desperately needed to heal this planet. It’s  appeal lies in its ingenious ability to foster hope on both the individual and the global levels for the common good. It is one powerful ideal.

The actual organization is rather complex because it works at multiple levels in the pursuit of its dual goals of raising public awareness of the global pandemic of HIV/ AIDS through the artistic expression of youth in both Africa and North America as well as raising funds through the sale of their artwork for HIV/AIDS relief work.

In its simplest form, however, it can be seen as a forceful instrument of transformative pedagogy. Hendrikus Bervoets, the founder of Art for AIDS and an artist by profession, is invited into a school where he talks to the students about the tragedy of the AIDS pandemic set in context of global social justice issues. They are then invited to translate that learning into an artistic statement that uses collage techniques and magazine images. Some of these collage works are then chosen to be produced into original machine-made limited edition prints which the student artist signs and then donates back to Art for AIDS. These prints are then sold publicly to raise money for carefully selected African projects that focus on assisting women and children affected by the AIDS pandemic.

There can be no finer example of learning that combines the heart, the head and the hands.

Over the last 3 years, I have watched many different pieces of art work come in and go out of the Art for AIDS inventory. I am amazed at the uniqueness and strength of the artistic vision that each piece represents in its response to global suffering. The moral caring that goes into each print is its own statement of optimism for the future and a reminder that change is possible.

With that kind of generative energy involved with Art for AIDS International, it is impossible to have too many prints. I continue to purchase new ones. It is my personal collection of hope.