An idea began flickering in Judith Gillespie’s head about two years ago. With a handful of local organizations battling AIDS, it made sense to combine forces, she thought.
“We all did small fundraisers,” said Gillespie, 77, who has been involved in the AIDS prevention and cure movement about 30 years while working for the Episcopal Church.
“It seemed to me that if we had a large community event, it might help tell the story,” she said.
Gillespie hopes her bright idea shines Dec. 1 at Mill Race Center. That’s when and where Columbus will host Arts for AIDS, a collaborative effort featuring African music and artwork intended to raise awareness and funds to help extinguish the painful flames AIDS causes.
“This is a very big step up,” said Cindy Chapman, a local activist who is heading the event planning. “There’s never been this kind of collaboration with groups in Columbus. It’s very exciting to see that we can come together and hopefully can draw in more people.”
Arts for AIDS aims to raise awareness for HIV and AIDS, generate support for those affected by the pandemic and connect communities through artistic expression.
The Indianapolis-based Griot Drum Ensemble will provide afternoon entertainment at $5 per attendee. The group specializes in interactive storytelling to the beat of African drumming.
“This will be mainly for younger people and their parents,” Chapman said.
Throughout the day, there will be a multicultural display of children’s art that expresses what their lives are like. Family activities are planned from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.
An event from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. will focus on raising funds. African paintings, sculptures and crafts will be available for purchase. Tickets are $60. Food will be served.
“I think it will be a great evening,” said Ann Jones, who works closely with the Columbus-based not-for-profit Granny Connection. “The cause is certainly one that I’m very passionate about. All five organizations will be helped by people attending (Arts for AIDS).”
The money raised will be divided between AIDS programs in Africa and Haiti, Gillespie said.
The Granny Connection raises funds to help ease the plight for grandmothers taking care of orphaned children in Africa. Konbit Lasante pou Limonad, a group established in Columbus, specifically focuses on Hatian relief efforts, while the Baobab Home provides housing and care for orphans in Tanzania. Imani Workshops works to aid HIV-positive artists in Kenya.
Along with the local organizations, Matthew Rusike Children’s Home, which provides aid to Zimbabwe, will be involved in Arts for Aids.
“We hope to raise money for these organizations,” Chapman said. “It is our hope that we can send a sizable amount of money to each of this group.”
Donations will be accepted. But if Columbus residents can’t open their wallets, Chapman hopes they can open their minds.
“We just invite everyone just to be educated, if nothing else,” she said. “It’s often the case that if you’re educated in some way, you’re moved to help in the financial ways.”
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