Up Against the Wall: Art, Activism, and the AIDS Poster | Beyond the Nest (Rochester)

Up Against the Wall: Art, Activism, and the AIDS Poster

*The event has already taken place on this date: Sun, 06/19/2022
Up Against the Wall: Art, Activism, and the AIDS Poster is the first major exhibition devoted to the University of Rochester’s vast collection of HIV/AIDS-related posters. The exhibition features 165 of the most visually arresting and thought-provoking posters from the over 8000 posters from 130 countries assembled by collector, physician, and medical historian Dr. Edward C. Atwater. Also included are a broad range of AIDS-related ephemera. Today it comprises one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. Both the collection and the exhibition illustrate the wide range of communication strategies used to educate and inform people about this devastating global epidemic, underscoring how beauty and creativity have grown out of the tragedy and destruction of this deadly virus.

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The messages conveyed by the posters are both visual and textual; through a variety of creative expressions they serve to inspire people to protect themselves, protect others, and to change their own behaviors. The posters in the exhibition span from 1982 to the present and show how social, religious, civic, activist, medical, and philanthropic organizations have addressed the complex, controversial, and often contested terrain of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic within the public realm. A variety of audiences, cultural norms, and specific behaviors are reflected in the many messages and methods used to share information to prevent HIV/AIDS.

With their international scope and myriad visual languages—from simple hand drawings to slick advertising graphics—the posters in this exhibition demonstrate the urgent need to inform individuals and communities around the world about the threat of HIV/AIDS. In its entirety, the Atwater Collection at the University of Rochester highlights how public health posters specific to HIV/AIDS represent one of the most significant, prolific, and creative chapters in the more than 150-year history of poster art.

The AIDS Education Poster Collection, housed in the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation, is one of the world’s largest single collections of visual resources related to the disease. 

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Memorial Art Gallery


Memorial Art Gallery 500 University Avenue
Rochester, NY, 14607
United States


(585) 276-8900
Contact name: 
Memorial Art Gallery Guest Services
The event has already taken place on this date: 
Wednesday through Sunday: 11 am-5 pm | Thursdays: 11 am-9 pm | select Fridays until 9 pm
$9 - $20; Members Free


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