By Darla Shelden
To help raise awareness about Oklahomans living with HIV and AIDS, The Project Red State Preview Party, hosted by AIDS Walk OKC and artist Ashley Griffith will be held on Thursday, November 29 at the A.K.A. Gallery, 3001 Paseo, in Oklahoma City. The event titled “Putting a Face to HIV/AIDS” will take place from 6 to 9 p.m.
The project’s goal, through the use of portrait photography and personal stories, is to provoke thought and dialogue in an effort to instill a deeper understanding of those affected by HIV/AIDS in Oklahoma.
“We’ve got something big in the works called Project Red State,” said AIDS Walk of Oklahoma City executive director John Greer. “AIDS Walk OKC is partnering with local artist Ashley Griffith to put together a “living art” exhibit that uses portrait photography and ‘real life’ stories to place a face and voice to HIV/AIDS in Oklahoma, a “Red State.”
The event will feature wine, beer and light hors d’oeuvres for a suggested $20 donation.
Griffith, an A.K.A. Gallery member artist said, “My goal is to photograph 1000 Oklahomans who are HIV/AIDS positive. Help me to achieve this goal by getting the word out to anyone you know who is positive. This project will only work if I have models.”
Expected completion date of the project is December of 2013 in time for World AIDS Day, but in an effort to get more participants and raise awareness, the Red State Project is hosting the preview party at A.K.A. gallery on November. 29.
“We hope Oklahomans will join us in getting behind this groundbreaking project and cause,” said Greer.
AIDS Walk OKC raises money throughout the year that is then disbursed through grants to organizations in the metro community that provide support, services and treatment to those affected by HIV/AIDS.
“We’re proud to say that over 95 percent of the money we raise goes back to the community, and none of our board members are compensated,” said Greer. “You can learn more about AIDS Walk OKC at www.aidswalkokc.org.”
Each Saturday at A.K.A. Gallery, Griffith invites visitors to participate in this and other ongoing SNAP-SHOT portrait projects. Those interested do not have to book a session. Participants are asked to come by the gallery between 12 and 3 p.m. on Saturdays to get involved.
“I understand that many people may not or can not reveal their positive status due to work or family etc., but I wanted those people to be able to tell their story and I think that those photos of the back of someone’s head will make the piece even more powerful to the viewer,” sad Griffith.
For the exhibit, the portraits will be placed in jewel cases forming a large rectangular grid. Speakers will be installed behind the grid to play the personal interviews of the people in the various portraits.
Established in 2006, A.K.A. Gallery is a contemporary art gallery dedicated to the promotion of national and local artists. It provides original fine art to established and emerging collectors and caters to special events in support of fine art organizations that foster social awareness and promote environmental issues.
“The issue of HIV/AIDS can still be shrouded in so much stigma and shame, especially in states like Oklahoma,” said Griffith. “I think that a lot of Oklahomans still see HIV/AIDS as a gay man’s disease. The truth is for a while now the growing rates of infection are in young women and straight men.”
To make an appointment to participate in Project Red State call Ashley at 405-606-2522 or for more details visit facebook.com/redstateproject.