The AIDS Crisis in Rochester: A Community Responds

9 am–5 pm Saturday, March 19, 2022
Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Rochester: 500 University Ave.
This is a free event; registration is required. Tickets coming soon!

In September 1981, the Empty Closet Newspaper reported on new illnesses that were disproportionately affecting gay men in New York City and Los Angeles and noted that doctors in Rochester had been advised to watch for similar cases. The following month, the publication confidently declared “No ‘Gay’ Diseases Here.”

The optimism was premature. Soon patients in Rochester were being sickened by the mysterious new disease that would become known as HIV/AIDS.

Local hospitals and universities attended to medical needs, caring for patients and researching treatments. Meanwhile, community organizations ensured access to care and support by developing innovative approaches to the delivery of health care and social services and launching public information campaigns to educate the public about the virus and combat the stigma that people living with (and, too often, dying from) it faced.

Taking place at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester during the Up Against the Wall: Art, Activism, and the AIDS Poster exhibition on view March 6–June 19, 2022, the 2022 Anthony Mascioli Rainbow Dialogues will explore Rochester’s response to the AIDS crisis from its beginning in 1981 to the present through both local and global lenses.


8:30 – 9:00 am:
Coffee and continental breakfast provided
9:00 – 9:20 am

Jonathan Binstock, Mary W. and Donald R. Clark Director, Memorial Art Gallery 

Christine L. Ridarsky, City Historian and Director of Historical Services, Rochester Public Library

Evelyn Bailey, Historian/Archivist, OutAlliance, and Founder, Shoulders to Stand On

9:20 – 10:30 am
Keynote Address: History, Theory, and Criticism of Art and Architecture

Jackson Davidow, Postdoctoral Fellow, Translating Race Lab, Center for the Humanities, Tufts University

10:30 – 10:45
10:45 am – 12:15 pm
Panel Discussion: Living with HIV

Survivors of HIV/AIDS share their experiences of living with HIV/AIDS.  They will discuss their journey dealing with the issues, difficulties and obstacles they encountered  

Rich Fowler – Panel Consultant
  • Consumer Relations Coordinator, Trillium Health
  • Consumer Leader and Core Team Member, Monroe County Partnering to End the Epidemic (MCPEtE), 
  • Executive Committee Member and Secretary, Rochester Area Task Force on AIDS (RATFA), 
  • Community Co-Chair, People Living with HIV/AIDS Leadership Training Institute
  • Member of NYS Peer Certification Review Board 
  • Sits on the Monroe County Long Term Care Council.
    • Richard Fowler has been employed by Trillium Health and its legacy agencies for over 20 years. During this time, he has been extremely active in the HIV community. He is an informal consultant to many groups from a local level to a national level and is known for mentoring consumers, professionals and community leaders.
Jo-Z Powers
  • Project Health Coordinator, Women’s Health Initiative, University of Rochester
  • Volunteer of the Year, Step by Step

After 37 years of tumultuous living and going In and out of jail, Jo-Z was diagnosed with HIV in 1992. After being released from prison, Jo-Z volunteered with an organization called Step by Step. Today she works with women who are coming home from jail and prison. Jo-Z is responsible for making sure that their mental health needs are met and any other ailments they may have because as we all know they do not get the care they need and deserve during incarceration.

Ernest Wilson
  • Human Resources Professional
  • Transitional Planner
  • Peer-counsellor/Educator at Jordan Health

A well known face in the Finger Lakes HIV Community is Ernest Wilson.  With an impressive resume, including outreach and later care management roles at Huther Doyle, work with Action Front Center’s Criminal Justice initiative and as a Healthy Relationships facilitator, peer education with Trillium Health and currently a Peer Navigator at Anthony Jordan Health Center, Ernest has a dedication to and passion for ensuring the services available in our area are the best available. Ernest has also shared his personal story as a spokes model with the HIV Stops with Me campaign and was nominated by his peers and selected for POZ Magazine’s 6th Annual POZ100 celebrating long-term survivors.

Zena Chambers
  • Educator
  • Advocate
  • Community Health Worker

Zena Chambers’ involvement in the Rochester HIV Community spans over 2 decades, during which she has openly and honestly shared her personal story to help others.  She was active in the HEART Program in the early days and years later facilitated Positively Alive, an HIV+ women’s support group originating with that program, at Trillium Health where she worked with their Women’s Prevention Program.  Zena is active in the Rochester Area Task Force on AIDS and has participated in numerous community collaborative, organizational and advocacy efforts.  Zena is still called upon regularly to speak at faith-based and educational events and continues to be an inspiration to her peers.

12:15 – 1:00 pm
Boxes lunches will be provided for those who preregister; lunch also
available for purchase onsite at the Brown Hound Downtown inside the Memorial Art Gallery
1:00 – 1:30 pm
The AIDS Poster Collection and Exhibit: An Overview 

Jessica Lacher-Feldman, Exhibitions and Special Projects Manager and Curator of the AIDS Poster Collection, University of Rochester Libraries’ Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation

Donald Albrecht, Curator, Up Against the Wall: Art, Activism, and the AIDS Poster exhibition

1:30 – 3:00 pm
Exhibition Tour/Film Screening

Pre-register for a guided tour, visit the gallery on your own, or view a curated series of short films about HIV/AIDS

3:00 – 3:45 pm
4:00 – 5:00 pm
Recognition Ceremony

Join Shoulders to Stand On and the Anthony Mascioli Rainbow Dialogues Planning Committee to honor some of the individuals and community organizations that responded to the HIV/AIDS crisis by providing treatment and support for those who have been affected.

Presented by the Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County and the Out Alliance in partnership with the Memorial Art Gallery and River Campus Libraries. Sponsored by Shoulders to Stand On, Humanities New York, and the Friends & Foundation of the Rochester Public Library.
Humanities New York
Shoulders To Stand On Program

Free admission to the Memorial Art Gallery for Rainbow Dialogue attendees made possible in part by the LGBT+ Fund for Greater Rochester at Rochester Area Community Foundation.

Jackson Davidow

Jackson Davidow is an art historian, writer, researcher, and educator whose work examines the relationship between art, health, and politics. He earned his Ph.D. in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Art and Architecture from MIT and is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Translating Race Lab at the Center for the Humanities at Tufts University. His keynote address will draw upon research for his dissertation and forthcoming book, Viral Visions: Art, Activism, and Epidemiology in the Global AIDS Pandemic.

The Memorial Art Gallery and this program are accessible to people with disabilities. To request a specific accommodation, email Chelsea Anderson or call 585-276-8971. For additional information, visit

Jackson Davidow

The Anthony Mascioli Rainbow Dialogues will take place at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, 500 University Ave., during the Up Against the Wall: Art, Activism, and the AIDS Poster exhibition, on view March 6–June 19, 2022.

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