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An Effort to Flier Up Awareness of AIDS

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For this year’s Day Without Art, more than two dozen Orange County arts organizations are distributing thousands of fliers this week from Brea to Laguna Beach encouraging support for area AIDS groups.

“Please contact any of the following organizations to support the battle against AIDS,” reads the handout, which lists 13 county AIDS associations.

The fliers are being inserted in concert and play programs and placed on admissions desks at art museums and other organizations to alert the public to the toll AIDS has taken in the arts community, the subject of Sunday’s eighth annual Day Without Art observance.

From 1992 to ’94, several O.C. arts groups collaborated on ambitious joint performances to mark the occasion. Last year they abandoned the performances and followed the lead of museums and theaters around the globe in shrouding paintings and halting rehearsals as metaphors for a world literally without art that might result if AIDS, which has disproportionately ravaged the arts, proceeds unchecked.

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This year, about five of 26 O.C. arts groups--about a quarter as many as last year--will dim their lights or cover works. The Orange County Performing Arts Center, which will dim the lights on its exterior “Firebird” sculpture, and the Laguna Art Museum, which will drape a piece in its “Spiritual Tourist” exhibit, are among them.

The reduced participation doesn’t signal waning interest in the cause, say arts officials who are coordinating the local effort. But because this year Dec. 1 falls on the post-Thanksgiving weekend, most institutions are closed.

Still, the number of O.C. arts organizations observing the day in some way is up over last year by about six, they say. Those groups have requested a total of 10,000 fliers, which have been distributed since Nov. 22.

“It’s the one thing that everyone can do to participate, whether their venue is open or not,” said coordinator Timothy Dunn.

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Opera Pacific will stage a free reading of well-known arias--without music--on Sunday at 3 p.m. in cooperation with the center, which is lending its 299-seat Founders Hall for the event.

“It is in this way that Day Without Art illustrates the loss we suffer when artists are silenced,” Opera Pacific general director Patrick L. Veitch writes in a letter to supporters.

The Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda will enshroud its most popular item, a framed silk embroidery depicting a cat, said library spokesman Kevin Cartwright.

The delicate textile, given to Pat Nixon by the Chinese government in 1976, “hung at the entrance to the Nixon’s home for many years,” Cartwright said.

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As of August, about 4,475 county residents had become infected with HIV and 2,575 had died of AIDS-related illnesses, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Some 6,500 artists and arts groups around the world will mark Day Without Art, said Nick Debs, executive director of Visual AIDS, the New York coalition that conceived the observance in 1989. Like county groups that have distributed fliers for the past week, many participants aren’t limiting their consciousness-raising activities to Sunday.

“It’s great,” Debs said, “though I don’t know whether that’s a function of this Day Without Art falling on Thanksgiving weekend, or that people, after this amount of time, have come to realize it’s important to spread it out.”

That’s what Orange Coast College art professor Irini Vallera-Rickerson believes, which is why she delivered an art and architecture lecture last week benefiting an art scholarship fund established in the memory of Laguna Beach artist David Torosian, who died last year.

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“He gave so much to the community through his art,” Vallera-Rickerson said.


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