In recognition of National Black HIV/AIDS awareness month, the Pierce County Aids Foundation is hosting “Reaching Down, Rising Up” — a beautifully curated exhibit of mixed media art produced by local artists. “Reaching Down, Rising Up,” running through Feb. 28, is part of PCAF’s monthly installation of art exhibits celebrating various AIDS awareness days throughout the year.
Jill Frey, Personnel and Administrative Coordinator at PCAF, curated the group exhibition showcasing seven artists from the South Sound region. The artwork, which includes paintings, sculpture and mixed media celebrates deep empathy, inspiration and raw emotion. Each unique piece within the gallery conveys messages of a shared humanity and a narrative of identity and cultural expression — it truly is such a powerful visual tribute and nod to PCAF’s mission and values.
“I wanted to show a lot of different mirrors around the issues of identity and representation not only for our clients but for us the staff and the community we work with, for our board of directors but also for the artists,” Frey said. “We have such an amazingly rich and deep community of artists and I wanted to allow as many as possible as our gallery would hold.”
PCAF provides various services to local communities through personalized case management to people living with HIV, educational/preventative measures to help stop the transmission of HIV, and various other social services from community building events to providing food and necessary household items to community members in need. Because art is such an integral part of HIV/AIDS awareness and support, PCAF fosters an environment that uses art as means to express, heal and tell people’s stories.
As a collection, the exhibit utilizes intense symbolism to communicate the experiences, plight, and successes navigating the world as black artists. Federal Way artist Barry Johnson showcases painting “Untitled #34,” a beautiful and awe-inspiring portrait of a black man. “Untitled #34” uses the weight of heavy, fragmented tiles to emphasize the barriers of being seen and accepted in the dominant culture as a black man.
PCAF highlights the importance of an authentic representation of the diverse communities they serve and support throughout the South Sound Region.
“I’m hoping that it will be a strong exhibition, in which our clients will have the opportunity of seeing themselves in our artwork, and if that happens I feel it is a success,” Frey said.
“Reaching Down, Rising Up” is a wonderfully executed collection of art that moves and challenges viewers to engage in reflective critical thinking and profound empathy. The artwork conveys unshakeable themes surrounding awakening and healing, self-expression and collective identity and human existence. Collectively, “Reaching Down, Rising Up” serves as a sincere and honest representation of the care, love and togetherness PCAF perpetuates within the South Sound region.