ViiV partners with National AIDS Memorial to honor young “artivists”
Enid Vázquez @ENIDVAZQUEZPA

In honor of poet and performance artist Mary Bowman, ViiV Healthcare announced in March the establishment of the Mary Bowman Arts in Activism Award. The award comes through the company’s Positive Action programs, promoting community involvement in efforts against HIV/AIDS. It is awarded in collaboration with the National AIDS Memorial.

ViiV, a subsidiary of GlaxoSmithKline that is devoted solely to HIV treatment development, brings together community members, including editorial staff of Positively Aware, annually for information exchange and relationship building. Bowman, who had devoted her life to art and working on behalf of people living with HIV, participated in ViiV’s youth leadership development. She may be best known for her tour de force poem “Dandelion,” illuminating a childhood and life lived with HIV.

In announcing the award, ViiV Healthcare stated, “In May of 2019, the HIV/AIDS world lost its most promising poet, advocate, author, singer, and young person living with AIDS, Mary Bowman. Mary was 30 years old. Born with HIV, she lived out her experiences of growing up and living with HIV (and losing a mother to AIDS) through her art. As a young, out woman of color, she was a dynamic, vital voice for the next generation of individuals living with HIV—proud, willing to speak of her own challenges with not just her own health needs (mental health, social support)—but also a fierce advocate for other young people with HIV for whom a voice was lacking. For Mary, the arts gave her the platform and voice to channel her creative energy, her passion, her truth.”

Positively Aware: Mary Bowman Arts in Activism Award

Young artist Farah Jeune dedicates her work to destigmatizing HIV and illustrating leaders in HIV/AIDS.

The HIV-specialty pharmaceutical company also writes that it “proudly supports arts and culture programs that engage and inspire individuals and communities in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and recognizes the power of culture to break down stigma and isolation. Mary Bowman was an icon of hope and resilience, and recently performed at the 2018 ViiV Healthcare Youth and Community Summit where she inspired leaders across the movement.

“To honor Mary’s legacy and support other accomplished young artivists like her, ViiV Healthcare and the National AIDS Memorial have partnered to create the Mary Bowman Arts in Activism Award. This $5,000 award is intended to support one young artivist (27 years of age or younger) each year who exemplifies Mary’s passion for the arts as the vehicle for their own HIV/AIDS community activism and expression. In general, artivism harnesses the critical imagination to design events and strategies that provoke new questions and new meaning in pursuit of more respectful ways of being. As an example, with respect to HIV/AIDS, such artistic statements are frequently borne from a variety of perspectives in terms of gender, sexuality, age, class, ethnicity, and nationality, and wield artistic expression as a tool for combating stigma. Stigma, and all it entails—shame, isolation, embarrassment, exclusion, shunning—remains among the most formidable barriers to fighting the epidemic,” ViiV explained.

ViiV has collaborated with many artists to produce profound performances and publications, including stories of people living with HIV.

 A complete application form with required attachments must be submitted no later than Monday, July 20, 2020, 5:00 p.m. (PST).

To apply, go to aidsmemorial.org/mary-bowman-arts-in-activism-award.