ArtAID is a long running HIV/AIDS fund-raiser organized by community-based organization Positive Directions. Part art auction, part performance, ArtAID has helped raise over 1.5 million dollars since it's inception. As ArtAid XXI approaches (Saturday October, 10th) we caught up with Renee Duxler, Positive Direction's Executive Director and Aaron Wirtz, ArtAID XXI's show producer to learn more about the services Positive Direction provides and what to expect from this year's show.
Describe ArtAID and Positive Direction's role in organizing the event.
RD: Everyone always asks me to "describe ArtAID". I'm still never quite sure of what to say! It's an event that is truly indescribable. You have to see it, to understand it. That being said, it IS a live art auction, a silent art auction, and a dynamic, provocative performance and runway show. Positive Directions has been organizing the event for 21 years now, with 19 of those years including Planet Hair as the founding salon and organizer.
How does the money raised benefit the Kansas community?
RD: Money raised for ArtAID helps us provide care and prevention services for those living with HIV, or affected by HIV, in this community. We provide care services like case management, transportation, housing, and nutrition services (including our food pantry) for those living with HIV/AIDS. Even if I can’t appeal to someone’s compassionate side about why it’s important for us to care for our fellow community members in this way, economically we also save millions of dollars in healthcare costs when we’re able to provide preventative services that keep our members healthy and strong. The entire community also benefits from the prevention services and education we provide.
How many artists and performers get involved?
RD: We always have well over 100 artists who donate to ArtAID, as well as over 100 performers, models and stylists donating their time and effort to the show.
Can you reveal any teases for what we'll see at the live show this year?
RD: The title for ArtAID XXI is "Crystal Ball… Defy Your Destiny." There will be acrobatics, live music, and lots of half-dressed, beautiful people. That’s about as much as I can divulge.
Aaron Wirtz was the first We Are Wichita interview, how has he put his unique touch on the show this year?
RD: Oh gosh. I can't speak highly enough of Aaron. He's incredible. He's really puts a lot of thought and intention into the storyline of the live show. There's this very entertaining and visually stimulating aspect to it, for sure. But it’s also incredibly cerebral as well.
Aaron, as the show's producer can you explain more about the concept of this years show?
AW: The concept of the ArtAID XXI: Crystal Ball is about the "fortunes" we're given in our everyday lives. From all angles, it seems, we're sent messages about what we should be doing, and what our backgrounds and upbringings will say about our futures. It is up to us to decide if we will accept these fortunes and live out the scripts that have been prewritten, or take control of our journey and explore new possibilities of our own. Being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS is one of these "fortunes" and I believe Positive Directions is an organization that can help those who have been infected to take back control of their destinies.
So specifically for this show, the mysterious fortune teller Crystal will be giving fortunes to the various performers, and it will be up to them to choose how they want to respond to them. Also, it's the 21st year of ArtAID, and the number 21 evokes images of luck, destiny, and magic.
Who is this mysterious Crystal?
AW: Crystal is a fortune teller for the 21st century. Part department store mannequin, part Wall Street analyst, Crystal represents the modern-day mystic who we rely on to decipher the complexities of the world which we directly affect our lives but struggle to understand. Think economic markets, interest rates, international relations—we rely on modern-day mystics to interpret these phenomena for us, and must live on faith that we're being told the truth.
Crystal looks so unusual because I wanted to break away from the turn-of-the-20th-century imagery you see so often when you hear the term "Crystal Ball." I'm a huge Bret Easton Ellis fan, so there was a bit of Patrick Bateman in Crystal's DNA, as well.
As both a performer and spectator of past Art Aid's what do you enjoy the most from the night's entertainment?
AW: I enjoy how ArtAID constantly challenges and redefines what a stage show is and "should" be. It's one of the rare performance opportunities in Wichita that brings together musicians, dancers, models, and other performers to take over The Cotillion, and it's a totally blank slate every year. I'm honored to be the producer now, because I consider ArtAID to be a sacred performance tradition in Wichita. It's the 21st year, after all.
Do you have any tips for audience members to prepare and enjoy their evening?
RD: Hold on to your seats! Be prepared to have an amazing time. This really will be unlike anything else you've ever experienced in Wichita, and probably even the Midwest.
AW: Come prepared to take a break from your normal routine. Seriously consider investing in a piece of art from either the live or silent art auction, take the opportunity to introduce yourself to the people you're sitting near, and enjoy the ride. Dress to impress and make some friends. The people who attend ArtAID are the people you were sure just didn't exist in a town like Wichita.