One need not be a fine artist to appreciate an AIDS memorial. Yet West Hollywood's Fine Arts Advisory Board seems to have disregarded everything it could possibly understand about the beauty of art in their approach to Robert Bell's AIDS memorial.
Art comes from within, and seeks to emanate to others. Often it educates and empathizes all at once. And it is always deeply connected to the creator's own self, whether or not he is an artist.
Surely Bell has shown all of these qualities in his attempt to form a monument dedicated to the victims of AIDS. The arts council appears more concerned with its own power status than with the healing process of the victims of this growing epidemic. One can easily foresee a long and drawn-out competition for a "winner" of this commission, while many suffer in silence, with nothing to look to as a source of relief. Bell has taken the first steps, and whether or not there are better, more aesthetic versions possible, surely none can be more sincere or legitimate.
Arts board Vice Chairman John Christofferson's statement, "I don't think we want to be upstaged by an AIDS memorial in Kalamazoo . . . ," explicitly demonstrates the bureaucracy that has plagued the education about AIDS thus far. Most of the thousands who flock to the Vietnam War Memorial every year are probably more concerned with having a place to heal, remember and understand than with having a place of beauty in itself, with no relation to themselves.