Metro Weekly

The DC Center unmasks its new art gallery

Center Arts Gallery debuts with a stunning exhibit by people living with HIV

Faces: DC Center art show

One thing has remained constant in the 12 years since Antonio Pineda started as an HIV/AIDS treatment counselor at Washington Hospital Center: Stigma.

“The stigma that we as a society have created for those who are living with HIV,” he says. “The stigma and the fears to talk about being diagnosed with HIV is still the same.” Two years ago, Pineda began to help patients face their fears through the creation of art.

“I came up with the idea to teach them art as a way to express themselves and their emotions, and their feelings…when they were diagnosed, what they are going through right now, what they are dealing with,” says Pineda, who took a page from his childhood in San Salvador, where his mother enrolled him in pottery classes to help him “calm down.”

He instructs his patients to create clay masks reflective of their lives with HIV, the ultimate goal being “to take something, possibly from the negative, and…through art, people can release the stress, can express what they are going through and be more comfortable in trying to move forward.”

Starting this weekend, 14 ceramic masks made through Pineda’s art therapy program will be on display in the common lounge at the DC Center, whose large picture windows sit at street level. Faces: Fearless Expressions is the debut exhibit in the Center Arts Gallery, which Director of Arts and Culture Kimberley Bush hopes will have an impact. “There are hundreds and thousands of people who walk by these windows everyday,” she says. “What’s a better way for LGBTQ artists to be able to share their art with the community than to have it displayed here?”

Not all of the artists who took part in the Faces exhibit wanted to be identified. Yet even in anonymity lies power.

“To express themselves through creating these pieces — that’s bold and that’s brave,” says Bush. “When you share a piece of yourself, whether it’s through visual art, whether it’s through just talking to someone, you can make a difference in people’s lives.”

Faces: Fearless Expressions opens with a reception Saturday, April 8, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the DC Center, 2000 14th St. NW. Call 202-682-2245 or visit thedccenter.org.

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