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The Impact of Socially Conscious Art Exhibitions: A Case Study of Art AIDS America

Thesis by Kacey Lewis (2016)

Art has an unspoken power that can connect people through emotion. It changes the way one thinks about the world, can spark a conversation, and create awareness about a social issue. By transparently addressing social issues, art has the power to present a topic in a different visual lens that you cannot get from an exhibition at a history museum or science center. Rooted in the history of the AIDS epidemic, Art AIDS America tells the story of loss, grief, and pain, but it also tells the story of hope, change, and love. The purpose of this research is to highlight art museums that transparently address social issues through exhibitions and bring attention as to how art can educate, create awareness and possible social change. This research study examined the social, institutional, and community context behind the process of creating Art AIDS America, the expectations and reactions to Art AIDS America, and the impact the exhibition had on the institutions or communities. Through document analysis and conducting interviews with seven museum staff members and community members this study found that it is imperative to understand the historical and social context, and community outreach is crucial for an exhibition of this magnitude.


Keywords: research, art museums, social change, exhibitions, AIDS epidemic, art exhibition, social issues


Lewis, K. (2016). The impact of socially conscious art exhibitions: A case study of “art AIDS america” (Order No. 10138581). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ University of Washington WCLP; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1821307080). Retrieved from