Medicine Wheel 2014 A Day With(Out) Art/ World AIDS Day


December 1, 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of Day Without Art, began on December 1, 1989 as the national day of action and mourning in response to the AIDS crisis.

This date also marks the 23rd incarnation of Medicine Wheel the longest running Art event in the city of Boston, honoring; Day With(Out) Art/ World AIDS Day. The venue this year is Fort Independence Castle Island South Boston.

Medicine Wheel began as a reaction against using art as a commodity that could be sold to raise money for worthy causes such as AIDS. I was one of the founders of the ARTcetera auction and in 1985, it was the largest fundraiser to date for AIDS. I remember my good friend Pam Hoyle telling me “you know you could be helping people a lot more by doing your art than by working on this auction. ” I wasn’t sure what she meant but I was soon to find out. The need for art to help dissolve the stigma and shame associated with AIDS and to intervene in the lives of those infected and those affected by that stigma was becoming urgent. Medicine Wheel continues to be a counterweight and healing place for those who come each year.

Over 16,000 offerings; articles of clothing, letters, photos, hopes, dreams, wishes, remembrances, prayers, jewelry and other artifacts of the history of AIDS in Boston have been left in the wheel as reminders our common, humantiy. This year the offerings will be carried in processional offerings, led by artists and and spiritual leaders to mark each hour of December 1, to the center of the wheel to be ritually burnt.

I have often told the story of a woman who rushed into the Medicine Wheel in 2008. She went to look at our information table at a book by Sal Lopez, a photo essay on People living with HIV. I told her she could have the book, since we had hundreds. She said no, “I just want to see what they have put in the books. My two sons died 16 and 15 years ago, I always come to Medicine Wheel, to remember them” She then went into the Wheel and saw the 16,000 buckets of water we had carried from Fort Point Channel she came out with her hand on her chest saying ” where are the buckets? my two boys deserve buckets. when they lived with me my own mother would not come to my house, my friends didn’t understand. they where boys, What was I to do.” Two weeks ago this amazing woman died. Seeing her name along with her two deceased sons was overwhelming. I will be carrying her obituary to MW this year. I hope that you will join me there.

I end with the quote form Eric Bruehl:

“Day Without Art is an opportunity to remember the many lives cut short by AIDS and to reflect on the impact of this cultural loss. But it’s also a day to celebrate humanity’s shared artistic legacy. Although the AIDS pandemic has claimed hundreds of artists, our continued interest and appreciation for art keeps their work alive. That is something loss will never destroy.” Eric Bruehl Getty Museum

Medicine Wheel's photo.