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Community HIV Awareness Mural
Dec 2, 2005 - Jan 28, 2006
The Mountain AIDS Support Endowment (MASE), a Watauga County Community Foundation member fund, proudly co-sponsors the Community HIV Awareness Mural with the Watauga Youth Network (WYN) and the Watauga County Arts Council. The Community Mural Project is funded in part by the Watauga County Arts Council and Grassroots Funds of the North Carolina Arts Council.
The mural was an idea that came about in 2004 with the chance meeting of MASE representative Robert Cox and professional artist Shelly Hehenberger. Cox had recently decided to incorporate artwork into the endowment’s 2004 annual AIDS awareness community project. Hehenberger, a newcomer to Watauga County, had recently contacted Watauga County Arts Council executive director Cherry Johnson about the possibility of creating a mural. Johnson introduced the two and the Community HIV Awareness Mural was born. “I’ve done murals before in Greenville and Columbia, and I’ve done murals in Haiti,” Hehenberger said. “When I moved to Boone (that) summer I knew I wanted to be involved with the community, and I knew I wanted to do a mural project of some kind. (Cherry) basically hooked me up with Robert because they were looking for somebody that could do an AIDS awareness art project.”
Hehenberger, serving as project manager, tapped the Watauga Youth Network for help. “One of my major motives in doing this project (was) to promote the Watauga Youth Network and to promote AIDS awareness,” she said. “That’s really what the project is about.” WYN’s Hometown Heroes program coordinator Jennifer Grubb says that about 30 to 40 after-school students have worked on the mural project. “I feel like for the kids it (gives) them an opportunity to use a set of skills they’ve never used before such as drawing, painting and thinking interpretively about art,” says Grubb. “The fact that this project is about AIDS awareness is a bonus.”
MASE is concerned that the threat of AIDS faded from popular imagination as media attention focused on treatment successes and need in undeveloped countries. The mural is designed to publicly present an accessible and non-judgmental portrayal of the emotional journey – from despair to hope – traveled after a confrontation with HIV/AIDS.
An underground issue for most High Country residents, there continues to be reports of newly diagnosed HIV infections locally. While necessary attention is placed on the developing world, it must not be forgotten that there are many here at home greatly affected by the ravages of this terrible disease – and many more at risk of contracting infection. Also, HIV directly affects family and friends as they care for their loved ones.
While HIV is generally a manageable medical problem in the United States, many cannot afford the medications (up to $2000/month for many people) or do not know that they carry the virus. Despite these wonderful advances in medical treatment, HIV/AIDS is not curable, nor is there yet a vaccine – prevention and testing remain our best tools for controlling transmission.
The Mountain AIDS Support Endowment funds local efforts to address these issues. The endowment builds on foundations laid in the 1980’s when a local support group for families of infected persons emerged. Slowly, through many mutations, the Mountain AIDS Support Council (MASC) developed into a comprehensive center for HIV education and support across the High Country region. When attention turned away from HIV in the late 1990’s MASC created the endowment to insure funding would always be available for the organization’s mission of public education and support for HIV affected persons.