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Summer 2006 | Volume 29, Number 3 | Campus

Artful Advocacy

Student-led campaign brings an outpouring of support for those with AIDS

When Sarah Tiedeman came to Seattle Pacific University in 2003, she already had a heart for the global AIDS crisis. “Even before my freshman year, I knew two people who had died of the disease,” she says. Now an international studies major who will be a senior next fall, Tiedeman directed reVISION, a community art project held in May 2006 and designed to help students and others examine their perceptions of AIDS.

The three-part event — which resulted in a colorful mosaic for display throughout the Seattle area — was sponsored by the studentled organization Acting on AIDS (AoA), founded in 2003 by Seattle Pacific students Lisa Krohn ’04, James Pedrick ’04, and Jackie Yoshimura ’04. AoA has since launched chapters on 55 college and university campuses across the nation.

Tiedeman served as event coordinator for SPU’s AoA chapter in 2005–06. During her sophomore year, she had researched how women in South Africa use art as a response to the HIV/AIDS crisis and as a means of survival. She also studied how art can be used to initiate conversations about the stigmas associated with AIDS. As a result, she hoped to do something similar on the Seattle Pacific campus, and reVISION was born.

Free and open to the public, reVISION brought students and Seattle community members together to paint ceramic tiles for the mosaic and to examine the church’s response to AIDS. Art, says Tiedeman, is a “natural means for conversation, especially when words aren’t adequate or appropriate.” The finished project, complete with 81 tiles, was unveiled in a ceremony on May 30, 2006, at First Free Methodist Church’s Fine Center.

Before launching reVISION, Tiedeman, who mentors an HIV-positive high school student, was concerned that many of her fellow Seattle Pacific students had little awareness about the disease. “Most of the students who participated in the project,” she says, “had never met anyone with AIDS or HIV.”

Tiedeman invited people from local AIDS organizations, both patients and staff, to take part in reVISION. “It was amazing to see SPU students getting to know, and in some cases becoming friends with, people with HIV and AIDS,” she says.

Seattle Pacific senior and project participant Kyle Igarashi says the experience changed his perception of AIDS: “I realized this was not a problem to be solved, but rather people in need of help, love, and company.” Igarashi painted his tile all red with a small white door slightly open. “It represented hope,” he explains. “It’s there — but it’s off in the distance. We have to work for it.”

Tiedeman and other volunteers plan to take the mosaic, now on display in the SPU Library, on the road to other venues in the Seattle area. “We hope the mosaic can become a means for awareness, not just about AIDS as a one-dimensional issue,” she says, “but about AIDS as a local issue, one that affects real people who deserve love, compassion, and grace.”


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