AIDS Wall by John Burton Harter is now showcased in its new home — the new headquarters of CrescentCare on Elysian Fields Avenue in New Orleans.
This installation comprises a series of portraits that Harter made of friends and heroes who died from complications related to the devastating disease.
About AIDS Wall
Part memorial and part tribute, AIDS Wall is a visual reminder of the enormous loss of friends and colleagues, especially those with New Orleans and Louisiana connections.
Many queer artists have explored this theme. As David Rubin writes in The Culture of Queer: A Tribute to J. B. Harter (Contemporary Arts Center, 2005), “In 1993, J. B. Harter entered into the discourse when he began painting small portraits of personal friends or people he admired who had passed away.”
“Over time, he intended to create a cumulative AIDS Wall and continued working on this project until his own untimely demise,” Rubin continues. “If one of his subjects was no longer living, Harter painted a small coffin next to his signature. Among those he paid tribute to in the series are the Louisiana artist, Robert Gordy and the celebrated Russian ballet dancer, Rudolf Nureyev.”
A plaque hung by AIDS Wall reads, “May these portraits serve as a reminder of where we come from and why we continue to work for our community.”
AIDS Wall is joined at Crescent Care by works of other notable artists, including George Dureau, John Scott, and Willie Burch. Arthur Roger, a local art collector and gallery owner, organized the collection and experience. Roger and the art gallery that bears his name have transformed the New Orleans arts scene since 1978, staging major exhibitions, representing renowned artists, and engaging the community through art.
In its new state-of-the-art facility, CrescentCare offers health and wellness services for everyone seeking healthcare in Greater New Orleans and Southeastern Louisiana, the city and region Harter called home for most of his life.
CrescentCare especially focuses on underserved communities needing medical support, including people from the LGBTQ community, slowly developing neighborhoods, and the service industry. The new building doubled its capacity and ability to provide primary medical care, behavioral health, HIV and STI services, and more support.
CrescentCare started through NO/AIDS Task Force, an organization actively supported by Harter during his lifetime. Founded in 1983, the organization established a helpline, with a single private phone, in response to the early impact of the AIDS epidemic in the New Orleans area.
It expanded into an information center and hotline. Later programs included medical and mental health services for diverse populations, case management, meal delivery, and community mobilization.
Today, CrescentCare has five locations across the area, offering medical, legal, and more services for comprehensive support. Tour the Elysian Fields location here.
AIDS Wall is on permanent loan to CrescentCare by the John Burton Harter Foundation.