The Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester (MAG) in partnership with the University of Rochester’s River Campus Libraries (RCL) invites New York State artists to submit their original poster designs to a juried poster competition as part of the upcoming exhibition Up Against the Wall: Art, Activism, and the AIDS Poster, on view March 6 – June 19, 2022.

Up Against the Wall is the first major major exhibition and catalog devoted to the University of Rochester’s collection of HIV/AIDS-related posters. Donated by physician and medical historian Dr. Edward C. Atwater, these posters, one of the largest such collections in the world, document efforts by various groups to educate and inform people from over 130 countries in over 75 languages about this devastating disease. The posters span from 1982 to the present and show how social, religious, civic, and public health agencies have addressed the controversial, often contested, terrain of the HIV/AIDS pandemic within the public realm. The posters have carefully tailored messages that address different groups, and depending on their intended audiences, used scare tactics, simple scientific explanations, sexual imagery, and even humor to get their messages across.


The competition is open to artists in New York State over the age of 14. Submissions can be made HERE and will be accepted from November 9, 2021 – January 30, 2022.

We encourage artists to submit original poster designs that help raise awareness of the epidemic and open up the conversation on HIV/AIDS, using varying methods of communication, design, and messaging. The University of Rochester’s collection of AIDS posters is 8,000 large and represents a rich tradition of graphic design, visual culture, and public health in which to find inspiration.

For more information about the upcoming exhibition, please visit:

To view the entire AIDS Education Posters Collection online please visit:


All winners will be featured on the AIDS Poster Exhibition website, added to AIDS Education Posters digital collection site, and displayed in MAG’s Vanden Brul Pavilion. This collaborative exhibition and all related activities are made possible through the vision and generosity of donor, collector, physician, and medical historian Dr. Edward C. Atwater, and his family, whose AIDS Education Posters Collection is part of the RCL’s Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation.

The exhibition is sponsored by Vicki and Richard Schwartz, the Rochester Area Community Foundation’s Lloyd E. Klos Fund, Friends of the University of Rochester Libraries, DKT International, the Gleason Family Foundation, and Trillium Health. Additional support has been provided by the Family of Dr. Edward C. Atwater, Helen H. Berkeley, Canandaigua National Bank and Trust, the Gallery Council of the Memorial Art Gallery, the Anthony J. Mascioli Trust, Suzanne M. Spencer, and an anonymous donor.

Funding is also provided by the Thomas and Marion Hawks Memorial Fund, the Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Fund, and the Nancy R. Turner Fund for Special Exhibitions.

The exhibition is supported in part by awards from the New York State Education Department made possible by Assemblymember Harry B. Bronson, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services MA-245369-OMS-20. The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The book that complements the exhibition is made possible by William M. Valenti, M.D.

About River Campus Libraries

With more than 3.5 million volumes, extensive digital resources, and world-renowned collections of rare and unique materials, River Campus Libraries forms the intellectual foundation of learning and research at the University of Rochester. The Libraries’ strategic plan for 2018–2025 focuses on making its collections accessible for all, designing spaces that serve its users’ needs, enriching educational experiences, supporting scholarly research at the University, and engaging communities on and off-campus.