In May of 2019, the HIV/AIDS world lost its most promising poet, advocate, author, singer and young person living with AIDS, Mary Bowman. Mary was 30 years old. Born with HIV, she lived out her experiences of growing up and living with HIV (and losing a mother to AIDS) through her art. As a young, out woman of color, she was a dynamic, vital voice for the next generation of individuals living with HIV—proud, willing to speak of her own challenges with not just her own health needs (mental health, social support) —but also a fierce advocate for other young people with HIV for whom a voice was lacking. For Mary, the arts gave her the platform and voice to channel her creative energy, her passion, her truth.
To honor Mary’s legacy and support other accomplished young art-activists (“artivists”) like her, the National AIDS Memorial created the Mary Bowman Arts in Activism Award. Student and non-student artists are welcome to apply for this award. These $5,000 awards are intended to support two young "artivists" (27 years of age or younger) each year who exemplify Mary’s passion for the arts as the vehicle for their own HIV/AIDS community activism and expression. Recipients of the Mary Bowman Arts in Activism Award use their art and activism to raise greater awareness about bigotry, stigma and social justice, particularly around the issue of HIV/AIDS.