Melissa Hiller on December 1, 2016
Day Without Art, begun on December 1, 1989, and recognized annually, makes us aware that we can all be affected in some way by AIDS.
The straightforward, potent phrase compels us visualize the bleakness of life devoid of art, creative expression, or artists.
To recognize the gravity of the day, museums exercised a form of activism for many years by dimming their lights or covering artwork.
These days, however, many museums actually increase their December 1 programming to amplify the effect that art and culture has on us and to spotlight the economic and cultural impact of art in our communities.
For me, this profound shift stirs an association with Rabbi Joel Simonds rallying cry about Shiva, grief and resistance: “As Judaism teaches us, after seven days of Shiva we stand up, we emerge from the dark, we do not have to accept, we do not have to move on, but we stand up! So, today We emerge from the darkness. We are taught that the righteous do not complain of the darkness but rather create light. Today, we begin to create light and we do so as resistance and we fight and we fight and fight for good, for love, and for justice.”
The move towards extending museum hours and supporting the arts economy, debuting projects and expanding dialogue with the public emboldens museums to be an illuminating beacon surrounding the ineradicable nature of creativity and for critical issues around human rights.
Melissa Hiller is Director of the American Jewish Museum at the JCC