“Are you positive?”
HIV&AIDS was chosen as the inaugural focus for Critical Encounters for three specific reasons: 1) Many faculty members here at Columbia College experienced first-hand the ways that AIDS ravaged the art community; 2) Heterosexual infection is on the rise, in particular in those ages 18-35; 3) AIDS is everywhere. With both local and global connections, immediate relevance to students, faculty and staff, HIV&AIDS appeared as an almost required first-choice for a Critical Encounters focus. Especially when you note that the AIDS crisis coincided with a cultural revival of activist art. It is no stretch to state that any examination of art and activism, of civic engagement and the arts today, would be incomplete, and void of any cultural context without close examination of activist AIDS art such as that created by Gran Fury and ACT UP. Critical Encounters provides a context for ethical application of skills and knowledge that help us, as our mission states, “shape public perception and author the culture of our times”.