Palmer Museum Of Art Covers Bronze Paws In Observance Of World AIDS Day
If you walk by the Palmer Museum of Art today, you’ll notice large cloths covering the massive bronze lion’s paws at the entrance. Although it might look like the symbol of our best is under construction, the covers serve a larger purpose for those in the art community at Penn State.
According to Dana Carlisle Kletchka, curator of education at the Palmer Museum, the paws are covered for a “Day With(out) Art,” a World AIDS Day initiative to promote awareness of the AIDS crisis. Kletchka, who joined the Palmer team in 2000, says the museum participated in the event in the past.
“Museums in particular started participating in 1989 as a way or thinking about and remembering all of the creativity that has been lost,” Kletchka said. “What we do hear, on occasion, is cover the paws as a participation in ‘Day With(out) Art,’ but also as a reminder that we did lose a lot of people in the art world to this disease and the reason that we lost these people is very much present today. It’s something that I don’t think most university students have in their heads every day.”
Kletchka said the event was typically a museum focus, but this year works in collaboration with the Penn State’s Commission on LGBTQ Equity, a presidential advisory board on campus. The commission created a year-long program based on playwright and activist Larry Kramer, who spoke at Penn State in October. The museum chose to only cover the lion’s paws as a way to make an impactful public statement.
“We have so much affection for the paws. They’re playful and they remind us that we’re Nittany Lions, but on the same side, the paws represent these guardians of knowledge…lions guard the entrances to these places of knowledge and understandings that we, as a society, regard highly,” she said. “When you cover these paws, you’re covering everything that they represent and thinking about this for a day.”
As the paws remain veiled for an entire day, Kletchka hopes that community members and students will see the absence of the paws as a reminder of the epidemic and how it shaped the world.
“This is just a time in your life when I think that students need to be aware that this is something that still exists and the role that it might play in your own life, like what you can do to keep yourself safe,” she said. “I think it’s important not just for students who are emerging in the world to think about this kind of thing, but also for them to see this visual representation that shows this is present in our community.”