Nancy Chong at the Visual AIDS office, October 2018.

Visual AIDS is excited to announce our new Development Associate, Nancy Chong. Nancy has a wide-ranging history of arts advocacy and fundraising and will strengthen lasting relationships with individual and foundation donors as well as the broader Visual AIDS community. Please help us welcome Nancy to Visual AIDS—stop by the Visual AIDS office to say hello or drop her a line at: [email protected]

I feel deeply grateful to join the Visual AIDS team as Development Associate. I have always believed that art could be used as a vehicle for healing, activism, and reflection, but Visual AIDS has transformed my understanding of the synergy between art and health towards achieving real impact in communities.

This past year, I was working with the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia (PPAZ) in Lusaka as a Global Health Corps fellow, leading resource mobilization efforts for the organization’s HIV and AIDS, family planning, and sexual and reproductive health programs. Throughout my time at PPAZ, I was supporting projects working closely with sex workers and the LGBTQ community, to link them to HIV testing and counseling services, as well as treatment if they tested HIV-positive. I learned how harmful global health policies such as the Global Gag Rule are to the communities I was working with and I became increasingly frustrated by the restrictions it placed on individuals that needed access to healthcare the most.

Dejected but hopeful, it wasn’t until November 2017 that I returned to the realization that I could use art as a tool to advocate for the communities most impacted by the Gag Rule. I connected with performing and visual artists within PPAZ’s network and used theater and painting to educate partner organizations, government stakeholders, and community activists on why HIV and AIDS healthcare access for key populations is so important.

And this was what led me back to Visual AIDS.

My fellowship in Zambia was coming to an end and I was on the search for an opportunity that would allow me to work with compassionate individuals committed to the goal of achieving social change, while simultaneously reshaping my own experiences in public health and art.

I had first heard of Visual AIDS in December 2016 when I attended the Brooklyn Museum’s screening of COMPULSIVE PRACTICE for the annual Day With(out) Art event. As a student studying international studies and public health, it was in that moment where I realized the power of art in provoking dialogue around AIDS and activism, especially regarding individuals’ perceptions of health and wellness. I attended the museum that day because I was interested in history and public programs, but I left with a new realization that Visual AIDS had opened up a space for artists and individuals who had been affected by HIV, to be represented and recognized in a large cultural institution that engaged audience members from all over the world.

Since joining Visual AIDS, I have learned what it’s like to be surrounded by the eclectic energy of the Visual AIDS staff, unceasing resilience of Artist+ Members, and invaluable support of Visual AIDS allies every day. Whether it is hearing about the amazing art and programs Artist+ Members have produced with their Materials Grants or interacting with eager artists for Postcards from the Edge 2019, Visual AIDS has channeled my enthusiasm to use empathy, storytelling, and curiosity in a new way, so that the experiences of artists with HIV will never be forgotten or silenced.