Public Art Fund Talks: Public Art and Activism: 1980s to Today


In June 2019, Public Art Fund presented the seminal billboard “Untitled”, 1989, by Felix Gonzalez-Torres (American, b. Cuba, 1957-1996) to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and WorldPride in New York City. Public Art Fund originally organized the project in 1989, when Gonzalez-Torres first installed this work on the 20th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. Thirty years later, the work was shown in its original location: Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village, above Village Cigars and across from the historic Stonewall Inn bar.

On the occasion of this project, on June 3, 2019, Public Art Fund held a panel discussion on public art and activism spanning almost 40 years. The panel featured pioneering artists and activists whose practice and work in the public realm addresses social mobilization and advocacy for human rights.

About the speakers:

Joy Episalla is an interdisciplinary artist whose work pushes photography and the moving image into the territory of sculpture. A longtime AIDS activist, Episalla is a board member of TAG Treatment Action Group and a founding member of the queer women artists’ collective fierce pussy. Formed in New York City in 1991 through their involvement in AIDS activism during a decade of increasing political mobilization around LGBT rights, fierce pussy brought lesbian identity and visibility directly into the streets. The collective continues to work together today.

Avram Finkelstein, co-founder of the collective Silence=Death Project, which created the “Silence=Death” AIDS awareness campaign to combat institutional silence surrounding homophobia and HIV/AIDS, and a founding member of the art collective Gran Fury. In 1991, Public Art Fund organized the public project Gran Fury: Women Don’t Get AIDS They Just Die From It, that was part of an activist campaign to include women in the Centers For Disease Control definition of AIDS, and gain increased access to AIDS education and health services

Paola Mendoza, co-founder and Artistic Director of the first Women’s March on Washington. She is a film director, activist, and author working at the leading edge of human rights.

The conversation was moderated by Nicholas Baume, Director and Chief Curator of Public Art Fund.

Featured image: Gran Fury, Women Don’t Get AIDS They Just Die From It, 1991, 48” x 5’10”. Presented by Public Art Fund 1/1/1991 – 4/30/1991, photo: Tim Karr, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY



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About the Talks

Public Art Fund Talks, organized in collaboration with The Cooper Union, connect compelling contemporary artists to a broad public by establishing a dialogue about artistic practices and public art. The Talks series feature internationally renowned artists who offer insights into artmaking and its personal, social, and cultural contexts. The core values of creative expression and democratic access to culture and learning shared by both Public Art Fund and The Cooper Union are embodied in this ongoing collaboration. In the spirit of accessibility to the broadest and most diverse public, the Talks are offered free of charge.

Public Art Fund Talks are presented in partnership with The Cooper Union.