by Brian Lipton

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Art Lives,” a new online permanent exhibition of works by artists whose lives were cut short by AIDS, will debut today, December 1 (World AIDS Day) as part of POBA.org. Among the seven artists who will be initially featured are architect Jim Terrell, who designed branches of such famed department stores as Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Marshall Field’s, and fashion designer Patrick Kelly.

Their exhibits, as well as those of graphic designer Ken Kendirck, music executive Mel Cheren, disco singer Sylvester, critic/artist Nicholas A. Moufaregge, and painter/performer Martin Wong, will include sketches, photographs, recordings, video footage and more.

The seven artists were nominated by DIFFA, LifeBEAT: Music Fights HIV/AIDS, and Visual AIDS, who are partnering with POBA on this project. “Shortly after we launched POBA in July 2014, creating ‘Art Lives’ was something we quickly became committed to doing,” says POBA developer Jennifer Cohen. “We realized that material like those now on display was capable of being lost forever. So many great artists died in the 1980s and 1990s, before the digital era, and not only was their work not being saved and preserved, but finding contacts for these people is becoming very difficult.”

Sketch from Patrick Kelly
Sketch from Patrick Kelly

That statement turned out to be particularly true in Terrell’s case, relates Johnson. Through the internet, Cohen located the sons of Terrell’s sister, Nancy, who eventually contacted their mother. However, she had been left none of his work. After contacting some more people, Cohen finally found one of his mentees, Debra, who was thrilled to help honor the legendary creative director by providing photographs and sketches of his work, including one he made of the home of his friend, designer Perry Ellis.

These seven artists, Cohen stresses, are just the beginning of a larger project. “We really want people in these industries, as well as people at large, to nominate new collections and keep other artists’ legacies alive,” she says. To do so, visit http://poba.org/nominate-a-great/.