Exhibit Shines Light on AIDS in China

Exhibit Shines Light on AIDS in China

There are more than a million dying of AIDS in the province of Henan in China. Many of these people have children who are forced to leave school because of the illness and death or there parents. "Living Dreams in Dying Village," a documentary art exhibit at Gallery 222 in Leesburg, presents art and essays by these children Friday, Jan. 27, from 7-9 p.m.

"We're brining this documentary art exhibit to the D.C.-metro area in hopes to create awareness that there is a HIV/AIDS epidemic in China," said Wes Haygood of the Chi Heng Foundation, one of the organizations that is arranging the exhibit.

The Chi Heng Foundation is on the ground in China helping children affected by the AIDS epidemic get an education and cope with the loss of their parents. The art on display was created by some of the children that foundation has been helping over the years.

"The schools would do art projects and the children drew pictures of their futures, of what they would like to see. It's a lot like drawings that kids would do here, mostly crayon on paper, but it's the stories that are great. There are some themes running through them, kids wanting to be doctors to help their community," said Dan Berg a development officer with the Minneapolis Foundation, who helped to set up the China AIDS Orphan Fund, which is the other group running the exhibit.

IN THE EARLY 1990s, the provincial government in Henan sanctioned the sale of human blood as a way to provide additional income to the people of this poor, rural province. However, the blood was collected via unsanitary means. In the decade to follow an epidemic of HIV/AIDS spread from one village in Henan to the next.

In 1998 Chung To, a Chinese-American business man, started the Chi Heng Foundation in reaction to this epidemic.

"At first [the foundation] started with awareness," said Haygood. But after seeing all the children displaced To started to raise money to help them through school.

It costs $125 to put a student through a year of the U.S. equivalent of high school and $32 for a year of elementary school. The Chi Heng Foundation now helps more than 3,000 children who have been effected by the epidemic.

"We're hoping we will raise some money. The exhibit is totally free, but we hope people will be moved to help," said Haygood.

To will also be speaking at the gallery at 7 p.m.

"He is going to talk about the AIDS situation in central China and the work the group is doing in the China," said Haygood.

"Chung To is one of the amazing young leaders in China," said Berg, "He was at the forefront of getting the information [about the AIDS crisis] out there so people would know."

GALLERY 222, located at 222 South King St., is playing host to the exhibit.

"We are a nonprofit and we try to do the right thing," said Gale Waldron the director of Gallery 222 and co-director of the Loudoun Academy of the Arts Foundation, which runs the gallery, "I think it's a wonderful idea as far as raising awareness. I hope a lot of people come and look at the work."

The art at the exhibit may be that of children but both Berg and Haygood agree that the point is not the artwork but the message.

"We started calling it a documentary exhibit because you don't come to see this for the art. It's the emotional impact of the thing," said Berg.