"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard" - Winnie the Pooh/A. A. Milne

Dearest Visual AIDS friends and family,

As many of you know, I have decided to move on from my role as Executive Director of Visual AIDS and start a new chapter in my life. I feel so lucky and grateful to have been part of such an amazing organization. Over the last 17 years so much has changed, my beard has gotten grayer and I've added a few more tattoos, but the biggest change is inside of me – my heart is filled with love because of all the incredible artists, activists, storytellers, mentors, and warrior that I have meet. I cherish all that I have learned from you, the creativity you freely shared and all the inspiration you have given me.

Thank you.

My work at Visual AIDS has been the most rewarding time of my life. I've had so many moving experiences and I have beautiful memories to take with me – from my first visit with Barton Benes in his treasure trove of an apartment in 2000, to being serenaded by Frederick Weston at VAVA VOOM just last month. In between, I've marched with friends and co-conspirators, danced with Jessica Whitbread at No Pants No Problem, rolled up sections of the NAMES Quilt in a sudden rain storm, started red ribbon bees with Ted Kerr at Occupy Wall Street, made valentines with fierce positive ladies, was knighted with Amy Sadao at a Night of 1,000 Gowns, shared tears listening to stories of loss and survival, hung thousands of small masterpieces at Postcards from the Edge, help organized 42 exhibitions and over 200 artists talks, screenings, panel discussions, and learned how to vogue from Kia Labeija (okay, that one is just a fantasy, but now that I have some time, who knows...).

There are so many artists, curators, activists, writers, performers, collaborators, supporters, students, interns, volunteers, board members and of course, staff that I have had the pleasure and privilege to know because of Visual AIDS.

I'm also reminded and thankful for the time I had with Visual AIDS artist members who are no longer with us, including Tony Feher, Frank Moore, Walt Cessna, Chloe Dzubilo, Albert Winn, Max Greenberg, Robert Getso, Affrekka Jefferson, David Nelson, Barton Lidice Beneš, Grahame Perry, Tal Zargarhof, Johann Van Wyk, Rob Anderson, Edwin Lacend, Peter Urban, Robert Miles Parker, Juan Rivera, Peter Cherone, James “Jimmie Mack” Simmonds, Sam Orwen, Amos Beaida, Nora Wallower, Kenneth Mitchell, Tom Shooter, John Lesnick, Alex Aleixo, Mark Carter, and all those who I did not meet, but whose work and courage inspires me.

I depart Visual AIDS knowing the organization is in the strong hands and big hearts of Esther McGowan and Alex Fialho. It’s been a privilege working together, and I know their experience, commitment and loving guidance will ensure Visual AIDS’ success in this next chapter.

I offer my congratulations to Esther McGowan as Visual AIDS’ next Executive Director and my many thanks to all of Visual AIDS' Artist Members, supporters, and friends. I am excited to see where this new change will bring me and Visual AIDS.

This is not a good-bye, but I'll see you later.


Nelson Santos