Image courtesy of Dave Harper

News from Esther McGowan and the Visual AIDS Board
I’m writing today to share important personal news. After 10+ wonderful years with Visual AIDS, I will be moving on at the end of May. I will be starting a new role as Director of Development at Aperture in June.

I am devoted to Visual AIDS and its mission, and it has been an honor to help grow an organization with such an important legacy. The generous and inspiring Visual AIDS community of artists and activists has made this a place like no other, and for that I am extremely grateful. It has been a pleasure to go to work each day. I've built incredible friendships and helped to shape fascinating and impactful programs and projects. I’m very proud of what we have accomplished, and there are many great things to come.

I joined Visual AIDS as Associate Director in September 2012 knowing Visual AIDS was the place I wanted to be. In that first year, I worked with the wonderful Nelson Santos and Ted Kerr on major projects, including the design of Visual AIDS' first dedicated website, the launch of the Archive online, planning events for the organization's 25th anniversary, and my first Day With(out) Art and Postcards From the Edge. Since then, there have been many triumphs and many challenges, all shared with a deep sense of community spirit and care. When Nelson stepped down as Executive Director in 2017, the board placed its faith in me and my vision for the organization, for which I am extremely grateful. It has been deeply fulfilling to lead Visual AIDS into a period of expansion and grow – building our staff, increasing the national and international impact of our programs, broadening our funder base and partnerships, and moving into a much larger office space with a dedicated room for archival research and study. I am also very proud of how well Visual AIDS rose to the unexpected challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visual AIDS has a devoted board and staff who will lead the way forward as the organization embarks on the search for a new Executive Director. I want to extend by deepest thanks to everyone – artists, donors, partners, volunteers, audiences, friends – for all the ways you have supported Visual AIDS. I would also like to extend my deepest thanks to Visual AIDS' previous executive directors who established an incredible legacy of leadership and helped shape my tenure with their guidance – Patrick O'Connell (1953-2021), Nick Debs, Barbara Hunt McLanahan (1964-2019), Amy Sadao, and Nelson Santos.

I hope to see many of you at an upcoming event before I leave, including the opening of our summer exhibition on May 11th and our VAVA VOOM benefit on May 15th.

With sincere gratitude,

Esther McGowan
Executive Director

A Message from the Visual AIDS Board

We wish to express our support for and deep gratitude to Esther McGowan as she
prepares for this next phase of her administrative career in the arts as the new Director of Development at Aperture NYC.

For ten years at Visual AIDS, including the last six years as Executive Director, Esther has been an integral part of the Visual AIDS community. In her role as Executive Director, she expanded the organization’s staffing, programs and facilities, including a move to larger quarters to accommodate a discrete space to house the Visual AIDS Archive. Esther expertly guided the organization through the tempest of the Covid-19 pandemic and smoothly pivoted the organization to online programming. Under her leadership, the organization’s publishing program has flourished and Visual AIDS has developed new programs including an annual Research Fellowship, supporting innovative scholarship in the organization’s archive and connecting a new generation of researchers with the lives and legacies of the artists housed in the Visual AIDS Archive. Throughout she has demonstrated a deep commitment to the organization’s core mission and to its vibrant community of artists and activists.

As Esther prepares for her new position, the Board of Directors has launched a search for the next Executive Director. We are excited to continue the challenging work that Esther has initiated, and at the same time want to express how much she will be missed by the Board, Staff, and Visual AIDS community. Thank you Esther, for everything you have done.

The Board of Directors