The Visual AIDS board of directors has named Esther McGowan as the executive director of the group, effective July 1. According to an announcement on, she will replace Nelson Santos, who had decided to step down from the post after 17 years of involvement in the group.

Founded in 1988, Visual AIDS supports artists living with HIV, preserves their legacy (you can peruse their digital archives online) and uses contemporary art to bring provocative attention to the HIV epidemic.

Esther McGowanCourtesy of Visual AIDS

“What’s exciting right now is that it’s going to be our 30th anniversary in 2018, which is a huge milestone for a small but extremely important arts organization like Visual AIDS,” McGowan said in an ARTnews interview. “We’ll be celebrating our history as well as what we’re doing now and our future.”

Speaking of the future, McGowan told ARTnews that Visual AIDS plans to expand its Materials Grant program, which provides art supplies, as well as its partnerships, notably to the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW) and to artists outside New York City.

For its annual Day With(out) Art project, held on World AIDS Day, December 1, Visual AIDS will commission a series of short films this year. Later this month, May 22, the group’s 12th annual VAVA Voom event will celebrate the Visual AIDS Vanguard Awards. For more information on VAVA Voom, click here.