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Promoting HIV Testing Week with powerful student art

This week is National HIV Testing Week. Using creativity for the good of the community, South & City College Birmingham’s Art & Design students have teamed up with local artist Garry Jones. The goal? To create stunning art that encourages people to get tested for HIV.

Garry is an HIV activist and frequent college collaborator, known most recently for designing and building the 2022 HIV/AIDS memorials in Birmingham. Garry said this of this new HIV Testing Week project:

“National HIV Testing Week is when all the organisations, hospitals and more get together for a week-long campaign to get people tested. These students have made graffiti-style wall art to go up in the Library of Birmingham for two weeks to raise awareness, remove stigmas and motivate people to get tested.”

Garry Jones

It is an incredibly important subject that had to be handled properly.

Garry first briefed the students by telling them about his own HIV positive status, and how far the science and cultural reaction to HIV has come since the 80s epidemic, with people now able to give birth without passing HIV on to the baby if on effective treatment.

But spreading awareness and understanding is as important as ever, especially around testing, which now can give results in minutes or even be done at home. The Level 3 Art & Design BTEC students went above and beyond in creating unique, eye-catching and powerful pieces.

“To help give the students ideas, I shared Saving Lives HIV Charity leaflets ’10 Fact You Need to Know About HIV’ as part of their brief, which were made in collaboration with Fast-Track Cities, Umbrella Health and local hospitals. We recycled the leaflets into the backgrounds for the wall art. We also looked at different artists and graffiti for inspiration. From these, the students came up with the messages that they want to put out.”

Garry Jones

This is not the first time South & City College Birmingham’s Art & Design students have created something special with Garry, from fully recycled carnival outfits for Birmingham Pride to a 52-quilt display called ‘The Cover Up’ that showed a powerful glimpse into the history of AIDS.

Olivia-May, a Level 3 student on the course, said:

“I travel so far every day to get to college, because it’s worth it. This course at South & City College Birmingham was the best Art & Design course I’ve seen promoted. I love the course here, I really do love the tutors and people that I have met.

I went from not knowing anybody else with the same ambitions as me, to meeting loads of other people and getting to talk to them about it. It really is beautiful.”

Olivia-May, Level 3 Art & Design student at Longbridge campus

Carmen Burkett, Deputy Head of School for Art & Design at South & City College Birmingham, said:

Our Art and Fashion department have a history of collaborative projects with Garry Jones and the LGBTQI+ community, and we are always amazed at the pieces produced. As a department we believe in the voices our young people have, and how they translate this into their creative outcomes.”

Carmen Burkett, Deputy Head of School for Art & Design at South & City College Birmingham

Courses at South & City College Birmingham are built around establishing industry connections and building life skills to get our students ready for the world of work, and this project will be a noble piece of their portfolio. We look forward to seeing what these future Art & Design stars do!

Heading to the Library of Birmingham to see these displays?

Check ahead, as at least one of the days will include quick and easy testing in the library, so why not get tested? Or, if you are looking to test in a more convenient way, find out more from the Gov website, including how to get self-testing kits at home.

Pictured L3 Art & Design students include Alexia, Alicja, Ben, Chardonnay, Christian, Kian, Olivia-May, Paige, Summer and Sutonyeh. Well done, everyone!

Want to be part of creating important art like this, or just have an exciting and creative career in an ever-changing industry?

See the Art & Design courses at South & City College Birmingham, starting Sept 2024. You can register online for one of the college’s upcoming Open Days; meet tutors, see the campuses, and get a taste of the student experience.