According to Britannica, the celebration of New Year’s dates back to 2000 BC in Babylonia, which is located in modern day Iraq. The first new moon following the vernal equinox which occurs in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness indicated the start of a new year.
Travelling over New Year’s break is a common tradition for families across the country.
“We’re never home for New Year’s,” junior Kason Tai said. “We’ve gone all across the world to places like Boston, Malaysia and Kansas. When we were in Malaysia, we celebrated New Year’s a day earlier than we would have back in Greensburg since the time zone is a day ahead.”
Other cultures celebrate their own holiday, such as Lunar New Year, which is better known as Chinese New Year.
“Malaysia celebrates Chinese New Year’s too,” Tai said. “I don’t remember it very well, but my dad said they have a huge celebration in the town center. They also have a giant dragon, which apparently symbolizes power, strength and good luck.”
The Times Square Ball Drop is a common thing for most Americans to watch on tv the night of New Year’s Eve.
“Usually, our family gets together with several family friends on New Year’s Eve,” science teacher Mrs. Tammy Elliot said. “Sometimes we go bowling in the afternoon and then we get together at our house or sometimes another family’s house. We like to talk, eat and play games until midnight when we watch the ball drop on tv.”
Sporting events such as the Peach Bowl occur every year on New Year’s Eve.
“I’ll go out with a couple of friends and after we’ll get together at someone’s house, either mine or theirs,” junior Noah DeMary said. “We’ll turn on whatever college team is playing and order a bunch of food.”
Today, the New Year is celebrated in different ways all around the world, but here in the small town of Greensburg, celebrations range from drinking champagne to setting off fireworks.
“I usually spend New Year’s with my family and friends,” junior Leah Kaylor said. “It’s a tradition in my family to watch the ball drop at midnight, but honestly, I’m lucky if I’m able to stay up to see it. When I spend New Year’s with my friends, it makes it easier to stay up.”
Many view New Year’s as a fresh start, which is where the tradition to make a New Year’s resolution came from.
“Every year my friends and I each make New Year’s resolution,” Kaylor said. “If I’m being honest, I usually forget about mine after the first month. I get upset whenever I remember and realize I haven’t done anything to commit to my resolution. This year I’m definitely going to try to commit, because whenever you accomplish your goal, it is one of the greatest feelings.”
For many in America, December means buying presents and trees, watching cozy movies, sipping warm cocoa and hanging stockings on the mantle. Even in other countries, these traditions are observed. For many more, though, other traditions or different holidays entirely are the focus of the season.
At GS, some students and teachers celebrate other traditions.
Senior Gabriel Prikoszovich is here for an exchange program and shared some of his holiday traditions.
“In Austria, we have pretty big Christmas markets,” Prikoszovich said. “Normally there’s some [place] to ice skate, [and] you buy souvenirs there. And then [there are] some dishes like caramelized almonds and some cookies. There [are] some stands [of] people who live there.”
One difference he noted was that in Austria, they open presents on the 24th rather than Christmas Day. The food is different as well, with fish being the main course.
“My family has a tradition where we eat a piece of garlic, a piece of apple, an almond and combine it with honey because it symbolizes wealth, health and family,” he explained.
Though there are a few differences for Christmas, Prikoszovich explained that New Year’s celebrations are nearly identical. The only thing he could think of is that the drinking age is lower in Austria.
Another transfer student, senior Aleksander Savic, shared his holiday experiences from Serbia.
The most obvious difference is the reversal of Christmas and New Year’s traditions.
“We get presents on New Year’s and then our Christmas is on the seventh of January,” Savic explained. “And Christmas is [to] be with your family [and] have a big dinner. [It’s] usually a big family time.”
Similar to several other traditions, he shared that on Christmas families eat a round cake with a coin hidden inside. Whoever finds the coin in their slice is said to be lucky for the next year.
Many might assume that the holiday season in South Africa is vastly different from American customs, but that’s not always the case.
“It’s the same as here, except we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving,” sophomore Kutlo Makgale said.
Makgale is from Botswana, a country in Southern Africa, and she moved to America a few months ago. For Christmas, the only difference is that they have a longer break from school.
“We got together, the whole family from the oldest to the youngest—all of us—because we rarely saw each other all year long,” she said. “We’d get there on the holidays and just cook and have fun.”
For New Year’s, she talked about similar celebrations to those in America, with dancing at the end of the day.
“Some people from the community would get together and perform traditional songs and [do] some dances,” she said.
Most of the traditions this time of year are very similar in Botswana, but Makgale said some of the American customs seem peculiar.
“I don’t [understand] sitting on Santa’s lap,” she said. “I mean, you don’t know him. [Just] deciding ‘Oh my God! I want to see Santa,’ [is] weird.”
Of all the Christmas traditions, mall Santas are certainly one of the most American.
Some students will be celebrating for the eight nights of Hanukkah, lighting candles of a menorah, receiving gelt and playing dreidel. Hanukkah is a traditional Jewish holiday commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem and the miracle of the holy light. The blessed oil of the candelabra that burned for eight days—only expected to last for one night—is a well-known legend that many still celebrate today. Each day, scripture is read and hymns are sung.
In addition to religious traditions, there are several others. Some traditional foods like latkes and sufganiyot—potato pancakes and doughnuts—are eaten. Gelt—money, chocolate coins and small gifts—are given to children each night. All of the time, though, is spent with family.
Any student who wishes to learn about other cultures can take a French or Spanish class, which typically cover bits of holiday tradition from their respective countries.
In French classes, students can learn plenty about traditions like placing shoes under the chimney. Most children in France do this the night before the sixth of December—Saint Nicolas Day.
While they sleep, Saint Nicolas will put candy into the shoes of the good children, and then Père Fouettard—Father Whip—will drop coal in those of the bad children. Sometimes, he even whips naughty kids with his bag of sticks.
This tradition stems from an old legend about one of Saint Nicolas’ miracles that can still be found in French children’s books today.
“It really opens up the holiday season in France,” French teacher Madame Stephanie Grace said.
Throughout the holiday season, there are many large holiday markets there. The cultural importance of markets in France leads to them being everywhere, all the time. There are many stands with sweet treats, delicious food and small gifts to buy for friends and family. Markets are not only a place to shop, but also a social gathering place.
Some things that could be bought at a market are les santons and holiday cards.
Les Santons are small figurines of traditional characters and professions that are crafted by hand in the Provence region of France. They are used in household nativity scenes around the holidays and can be found in Provençal homes year-round.
Rather than sending cards out in December, in France they are typically sent out any time before the end of January. Instead of specific Christmas cards, they are cards to wish luck and prosperity for the new year.
“It’s more to wish them a prosperous and healthy new year,” Madame Grace said.
Other than timing, they’re fairly similar in sentiment to American cards.
The night before Christmas, French families have a big dinner together. It’s a traditional meal that sometimes includes delicacies like oysters.
“It’s a late dinner because they eat [and] then head to midnight mass together,” Grace said. “So, it’s a good way to bring in the season.”
After Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, French families celebrate Three Kings Day on January 6. This is a time to feast with family and enjoy a King Cake. Inside the cake, there will be a small ceramic toy. Whoever gets it in their slice is granted luck for the year and is responsible for bringing the cake next year.
In Spain, they also celebrate Three Kings Day, also known as the Epiphany, with a cake, but the tradition is split apart. The cake is called a Roscón de Rayes cake, and it has dried fruit. There is both a bean and a small figurine of a baby inside. Whichever unlucky person finds the bean must bring the cake next year, and the luck is bestowed upon whoever finds the baby. Also on that day, children leave out shoes for treats like the French do on December 6.
For New Year’s in Spain, they eat 12 grapes before the clock strikes midnight for prosperity in each month of the upcoming year. There are fireworks and parties, too.
In Peru, families create dolls or scarecrows called muñecos that resemble a person and place them outside their homes. They are often modeled after political figures or family members. At midnight, on New Year’s Eve, with fireworks or just fire, each muñeco is burned away.
“It represents, sort of, out with the old and in with the new,” Spanish teacher Señora Emily Aragon explained.
For many countries, the Christmas season isn’t during a cold snowy winter. In Peru, though it’s warm, they still drink hot chocolate. In some areas, there are sorts of holiday soup kitchens—called chocolotadas—where hot cocoa and warm food are given out to the community.
“Basically, they give hot chocolate and food to [less] fortunate families and they give a little gift,” Señora Aragon said. “So, when you hear chocolatada, in Peru that’s a big tradition around Christmas time.”
Another tradition of Spanish-speaking countries is that of Las Posadas, which is most prominent in Mexico. For nine nights before Christmas, there is a small procession of community members acting as Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus followed by many children in angel or demon costumes. They parade through the town asking for shelter until they reach the designated house, where everyone enters and feasts.
“It’s a theatrical reenactment of Mary and Joseph looking for a place to sleep in Bethlehem,” Aragon said.
Speaking of the nights before Christmas, in Iceland children are visited by the 13 Yule Lads. Each night, a different one of the brothers visits each child and either gives them a gift or—if they were naughty—a rotten potato. Traditionally, these are given within shoes placed on the windowsill the night before.
Icelandic children also contend with the Christmas Cat, Jólakötturinn. He prowls around on Christmas Eve and allegedly steals gifts from, or in some stories devours, anyone who isn’t wearing at least one piece of new clothing. No one can quite trace the origins of this particular holiday creature, but it still convinces many children to wear the socks they begrudgingly got the night before.
One tradition that may be more familiar to people in Greensburg is that of the Christmas pickle. This ritual of hiding a pickle ornament in the tree for someone to find the next morning allegedly comes from Germany. Researchers have found, however, that it most likely started right here in the US at Woolworth’s in the 1880s. Almost no one in Germany has even heard of the tradition. Historians suspect that they created the tale as a way to sell more glass ornaments of fruits and vegetables imported from Germany at the time.
There are two main legends behind the commercial myth. The first tells of a soldier who had been captured and was near death. He pleaded with a guard asking for just a pickle, which saved him and gave him the strength to continue living by the grace of God.
The other tale tells of two boys who were captured and killed by an innkeeper. The innkeeper then stuffed their bodies in pickle barrels. Later, St. Nicholas was passing through and found the bodies. He used his magic to create a miracle, bringing them back to life. This has parallels to the French tale of Saint Nicolas, meaning it likely took inspiration from the classic tale.
Despite alleged German origins, many in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area continue this tradition, partially due to the city’s ties to Heinz pickles. Ornaments with Heinz pickles are sold around the city, and a large balloon was made as well.
Wholly unrelated to pickles, another food-centric tradition is the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Many years ago, Italian American families solidified the tradition in the US. At the time, seafood was the most available resource for many people in Italy, and immigrant families brought this cooking with them.
On Christmas Eve, a seven-course meal of seafood is served family-style around the table. At least one of the courses will involve a whole cooked fish, which symbolizes abundance—and is also very delicious. The tradition itself is not religious, but there are seven courses because of the number’s importance in the Bible.
Though not centered on fish, another seaworthy tradition is the decoration of Christmas boats in Greece. The climate in Greece rarely had trees, mostly brush, and many families had sea-faring roots. Families join and decorate a boat, often a model for those who don’t own a real one, rather than a tree. Some legends say that the lights on the models would bring light to the men who were out at sea, although it isn’t very clear what the direct origins were.
Even if your holiday season is just a few extra days off school, enjoy the time with friends and family by making memories and having fun.
GS students dressed up and ran to the dance floor for a night of partying.
The 2022 Holiday dance was held in Crabtree at Marian Hall. It lasted from 5:00pm to 9:30pm and almost everyone was dressed up formally for the occasion. Dinner was served at 5:30pm.
“This location was much bigger than last year’s,” sophomore Alexxus Reynolds said. “It gave us a lot more space to move around and dance, which was good. The only downside was that the restrooms were smaller.”
There were about 250 students who made reservations, and it was more spacious than last year’s dance at the country club.
“The main reason for the venue change was to increase the capacity,” SCA co-advisor Mr. Christopher Gazze said. “We were previously limited to approximately 225 guests.”
Many more students could attend this year and there was still room for everyone.
“The music was one of the best parts,” sophomore Alexxus Reynolds said. “The DJ played a lot of unexpected throwbacks that I think everyone loved.”
During the time for dancing, which was from 6:30pm to 9:30pm, the DJ played a variety of music for almost everyone to enjoy.
“The food was better last year, but I had fun and the music was okay,” junior Bryonna Macioce said.
The dinner options consisted of chicken, alfredo, red pasta, roasted red potatoes, green beans and garden salad. Long’s Catering provided the food. They also had a large cookie table for dessert.
“I know my friends and I had a really great time, but I also know that some people did not, especially those who were not comfortable dancing,” Reynolds said. “But from most of what I have heard, everyone enjoyed themselves.”
The smell of freshly baked sugar cookies and royal icing fills the cold air as Christmas approaches with people baking classic holiday recipes.
Why do people bake around the holidays? Pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner, sugar cookies, gingerbread houses or fruit cake on Christmas are all examples of holiday treats.
Holidays are often nostalgic for people, so baking ties in with the feeling of doing something that isn’t often done for a holiday. Baked goods may also be t5radition that a family may have for specific holidays.
Baking is an activity that anyone can try. It could be a good way to have fun with family or used as a bonding activity between friends, a significant other or just something that can be done alone.
Bakeries often get busy during holidays and receive orders for special made pastries. Baked goods are ordered for Christmas parties, family gatherings and for Christmas day itself.
Small baking businesses often find themselves getting many orders for sugar cookies, gingerbread houses, cakes and many other holiday treats. A local small business that is run by a student of GS, is called Ella’s Confections which junior Ella Henry takes custom orders for cookies and other baked goods.
“I’m most busy during the month of December,” Henry said. “I think that’s when I get most of my cookie orders. However, surprisingly, most of my orders this month are baby showers instead of Christmas themed specifically.”
Other cultures and ethnicities have traditions or their own foods and recipes that they make for Christmas. Some families do not always do a traditional “American” Christmas or Christmas Eve meal. Some families put time aside to bake with each other.
Foods teacher Mrs. Morgan Ferczak said that on Christmas Eve her family has Polish meals such as perogies, stuffed cabbage, mashed potatoes and meatloaf.
Baking allows one to be creative using ingredients, techniques or even construction. Gingerbread houses are a great way to use candy and icing as a challenge to build something with walls and a roof that can stand.
“I’d like to try making gingerbread houses from scratch,” Henry said.
Sometimes recipes do not go the way they are meant to go and then people have to find a way to improvise.
“When I was 10, I did not know how to use Royal icing and it took a lot or trial and error,” Henry said. “The first time I tried Royal icing it was not pretty.”
Following a recipe isn’t always an easy task for some. Sometimes the recipe is not followed correctly and a step is missed. This causes food and recipes to not turn out how they are supposed to.
“One year, I made yeast rolls and I overfilled my mixer and while it proofed the yeast rolls went all over the place,” Mrs. Ferczak said.
Baking is purely chemistry. When all the ingredients have been mixed and are ready to be baked, the ingredients react with each other to make the finished product that is eaten.
According to https://www.centennialcollege.ca/centennial-college-blog/2017/september/13/five-weird-things-you-didn-t-know-about-baking, flour gives a baked good its structure, while baking powder or soda gives it airiness. Eggs are like the binding glue, oil and butter tenderize, sugar sweetens and water gives moisture. When the dry and wet ingredients are combined, gluten is created by proteins from the flour bonding, while the baking powder or soda releases carbon dioxide which makes the whole thing expand. After that, each ingredient competes to get water for itself, which is why putting them in the right order is important.
Fruit is one of the oldest desserts and still is included into so many recipes made today.
Along with fruit, spices have been something people can add to their baked goods to make them their own.
Each culture has their own spice combination that they use. Ginger spiced compotes are found in Asia, rose water and honey scented fruits in the Middle east, and cinnamon and vanilla in the U.S.
Gingerbread is one of the oldest cookies, with Greek recipes dating as far back as 2400 B.C.E.
By the Middle Ages, gingerbread had spread across Europe and was popular with royalty. Queen Elizabeth I is often credited with the idea of decorating the cookies.
Through the years, baking has changed in many ways. Baking used to only be done with ingredients all mixed together by the person who made the sweet treat. Today box mixes and pre-mixed packets can be found in any grocery store, including in a range of flavors, colors, gluten free and various other differences.
Christmas time is known for its gingerbread houses, sugar cookies, eggnog and many other sweets. People have learned how to manipulate ingredients into something that tastes good and is enjoyed during special occasions.
“Around the holidays, people spend a lot of time baking together as a family,” Henry said. “I like going to my grandma’s during Christmas time and baking sugar cookies with my cousins. It’s fun because it really makes it feel like Christmas Time.”
Hardworking senior Kayla Wright was awarded the Heisman High School Scholarship for her outstanding work both on the field and in the classroom.
The Heisman High School Scholarship recognizes and rewards senior student athletes who have shown leadership and effort; those who have excelled in the classroom, on the field and within their community. It is meant for both athletes and non-athletes who participate in community activities.
“To have somebody from Greensburg recognized as even being a potential awardee or an awardee is a pretty prestigious honor,” Co-Principal Mr. Adam Jones said.
In order to be eligible for this scholarship, students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or better, must be a senior, must be proven leaders in their school and must be involved in one of the sports recognized by the International Olympic Committee, the Paralympic Games or the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Wright is the captain of the varsity cheer squad, a member of the lacrosse team, the president of the Letterman’s club, the treasurer of FCCLA, a member of the Interact club and an officer in the Spanish club and the French club.
“She looks for opportunities to not only vocally lead, but lead the way by example,” Mr. Jones said.
Applications were open from August 15 to October 18. Winners were announced in the month of November. Up to $10,000 could be received in scholarship money.
“My mom and I have been looking all summer for [scholarships],” Wright said. “I just filled out the application and wrote an essay, and that was that.”
This scholarship has four levels. More than 5,700 applicants, one of them being Wright, have been recognized as school winners. The next level up is the state winners who receive $1,000. The next, national finalists, receive $2,000. And finally, the national winners, who will be announced November 30, will receive the maximum of $10,000.
By winning this scholarship, the recognition makes Wright stand out amongst her peers.
“I was really excited because I’ve applied to a lot, but I haven’t really won anything yet,” Wright said.
Even with 8 billion people occupying the world, everyone can occupy one square meter of room and fit on the Island of Cyprus. Although people take up a small portion of land, the effects that everyone makes on the world are greater than projected.
On November 15th, 2022, the world’s population officially hit 8 billion people.
Currently, China has the largest population with over 1.4 billion people. In 2023, India is predicted to surpass China. In an attempt to control China’s population, their government had a limit on how many children were allowed to be born into each family.
“[China] had a one-child policy until 2015, a two-child policy until 2021 and now a three-child policy,” International Studies teacher Mr. Robert Lehman said.
Most countries do not have limitations on family size to slow down the growing population.
“Governments do not necessarily want to control population because more people, which usually means more taxes and a larger labor force,” Mr. Lehman said.
China has been able to relax their household policies due to the advanced education women have the opportunity to receive.
“The bottom line is the more educated women are, the more opportunities they tend to have, which usually equates to wanting less children,” Lehman said. “Women’s rights and world population issues are intertwined.”
Lehman believes the world’s growing population is not negatively affecting the world.
“You always want populations to grow, just not too fast,” he said. “Growing populations spur economies, create stable labor forces and increase the odds for new inventions, medical advancements and all the ‘good stuff’ humans are capable of doing. In many parts of the world, population is already stabilizing or even shrinking. This will slow down worldwide growth. For example, the world just hit 8 billion people. Experts say that we will hit 9 billion in 2037.”
Others are rather concerned with the growing population.
“I worry that our planet lacks the capacity and resources to permanently sustain such a great number of people,” senior Rachel Leo said.
Rather than population control, Leo hopes that people will take individual responsibility to reduce the impact of climate change.
“I believe that efforts should be focused toward addressing the policies and corporations that allow environmental health issues to be disregarded rather than directly toward the number of people inhabiting the planet,” she said. “There are many avenues through which the general public can perform simple acts that will help our planet. Overall, living a ‘greener’ lifestyle lends itself to opposing the dangers we face due to the growing population. One way that I believe is especially valuable is to shop responsibly. The most sustainable lifestyle is one that consumes the least.”
According to CNN, demographers reported the population growth rate has fallen to less than 1% per year, which should prevent the world from reaching 9 billion people until 2037.
There are currently more men than women in the world, but that should even out by 2050, according to CBS.
According to Pew Research Center, China, India, the U.S., Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria and Brazil make up half of the world’s population.
Senior Owen Tutich has been selected as one of the PIHL players of the month. Tutich is a 2-time PIHL All-Star and led the GS Varsity Hockey Team in points in the 2021-22 season with 25 goals and 20 assists (25-20-40) in 19 games played.
The reason Tutich is always considered for these awards is due to how he stands out on the ice.
“He can play the game any way,” Head Coach Cory Mentch said. “If you’re a defenseman he can beat you with speed or finesse or grit. If you’re a goaltender, you might get the puck put over your shoulder from the top of the circle or you might get backed into your net and danced. If you’re a forward in a board battle, good luck.”
Whether it’s on the ice or in the gym, Tutich isn’t afraid to put in extra work.
“There are many reasons that he stands out so much on the ice,” junior Noah Outly said. “The biggest thing that makes him stand out is his hard work he puts in.”
Despite the skill that he has, Tutich is always working to get better.
“He never misses a practice and never takes a drill off,” Outly said. “The work he does off the ice has a big part too. He’s constantly in the gym, working to get stronger. What makes him stand out during games is how well he knows the game and how fast he is.”
Tutich already has plans to continue his hockey career after high school.
“There are a couple different paths that I could take to play hockey after high school,” Tutich said. “One option would be to go straight to a college next year and try out for the team of the college I go to. Another option is to play in a junior league, which will mean taking a gap year to play hockey if a team were to contact me.”
With leadership comes responsibility, and Tutich never shies away from either.
“He’s a hard-nosed, tough kid,” Athletic Director Mr. Frank Sundry said. “He possesses the skills needed to score goals, but more importantly he’s that leader that every team needs. His leadership is what is driving this team to their early success, and I think it’s exactly what the team needs to achieve their ultimate goal of winning the Penguins’ Cup.”
Swifties prepared to battle their competition trying to purchase concert tickets to see the “Mastermind” behind it all.
Ticketmaster organized a presale for people to sign up for because Taylor Swift has such a huge following. But when the time came to actually buy the tickets, fans were faced with some serious complications.
“Over the years I feel like Taylor has really blown up, which makes sense of all the chaos coming from these concerts and because her most recent tour was in 2018, fans are more eager to see her,” sophomore Lily Slavnik said.
Since her “Reputation” tour, Swift has had four albums come out, but because of Covid-19 she has not toured for any of these until now. She is doing an all-Eras tour to make up for what she and her fans lost.
“It took 4.5 hours,” Classroom Instructional Assistant Mrs. Leisa Ecklund said. “It was worth it.”
The people who ended up getting tickets still had to wait for hours and some people had to pay unreasonable amounts.
“I am upset because I signed up for the presale and got confirmed, but when my pap went to buy tickets for me, he had to sit at his computer for 6 hours and ended up not even being able to get them,” Slavnik said.
Over 14 million people tried to get tickets for these concerts, but about 15% of these people had complications with the website.
“I think that buying Taylor Swift tickets is chaotic because she has such a big fanbase,” junior Alexa George said. “If you want to buy a ticket, you are fighting with millions of people and that can be a challenge.”
Even though Swift plays shows in stadiums, buying tickets can still be really tough.
“My mom had to wait in the queue for 6 hours before the line started to move,” George said. “When she first joined the queue, she was 2000+ in line.”
Since all this madness, Swift spoke out by putting a message on her Instagram story saying she is “Extremely protective” of her fans and that “There are a multitude of reasons” why some of her fans could not receive tickets.
2.4 million people ended up with tickets so far, but there were people buying them just to resell for a lot more than they were originally sold for.
“The cost and time are worth it,” George said. “I think that this will be one of Taylor’s best tours.”
When one takes a look back on the 1980s, the most common visions include lots of neon, teased hair and glam metal. It’s seen as one of the greatest periods of all time, but nobody tends to remember the darkness hidden within.
Amidst all the neon and chick-flicks, a deadly disease was being spread along with an even deadlier stigma. From 1981 until the early 1990s, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was sweeping the nation and spreading detrimental misconceptions.
The most common of all the delusions was that the virus could only be spread by homosexual men, and that catapulted mass amounts of homophobia and fear.
The world for that community was absolutely turned upside down, and one of the few things they were able to hold onto was expression through art.
“Some artists felt like it was something they could use to reflect upon their own feelings,” art teacher Mr. Darryl Audia said. “I think we can say that’s true for anything.”
One of the most prolific figures of the time was Keith Haring, an artist who used simple pop art to convey serious messages. His work has become so notable, in fact, that almost anybody can recognize it at just a glance.
While Haring created pieces about many controversial world topics at the time such as the crack cocaine epidemic, he was personally connected to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, having been diagnosed with the disease in 1988.
Haring created the above piece titled Ignorance = Fear a year after he was diagnosed, pushing the envelope on what people should be discussing versus what was actually being portrayed.
He was facing imminent death, but kept creating and kept attempting to shove reality down the throats of those blinded by ignorance and disbelief.
In his journals published by the Keith Haring Foundation, Haring wrote of many trips, experiences and ideas on art itself and the things he created.
“‘The paintings are not final statements,’” he wrote. “‘They can be changed, reshaped, combined and destroyed.’”
Haring believed that every piece was a work in progress, never finished and always evolving, which is very telling of the epidemic and how the disease and stigma still affect the world today.
While Haring was the most famous artist to create commentary pieces on HIV/AIDS, he wasn’t the only one who demanded change.
Less bold and more poignant, artist Hugh Steers created a multitude of pieces not only regarding the disease, but also his sexuality.
Steers was a figurative artist who focused on the small yet surreal details of life, ones that are so often overlooked by the average person.
Similarly to Haring, he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1987 but kept creating up until his final days.
His piece Bath Curtain, as seen above, could be seen as an attempt to visualize the reality of the disease for the people who have otherwise not experienced it, but the true nature of his art is the expression of his own emotions.
“Self-help and self-care can sometimes start with creating,” Audia said. “A lot of artists during that time, just like our time, probably used that as a coping mechanism or a crutch.”
Bath Curtain uses body language and lighting to convey the pain and suffering of an ostracized community.
HIV/AIDS became a prevalent and driving force for Steers towards the latter years of his life, as he was slowly succumbing to the disease. His pain and suffering provided the world with poignant pieces that represent the shared conscience amongst his community.
The above piece, titled Morning Terrace, is an example of Steers expressing his own sexuality while leaving the viewer wondering what exactly is happening.
The depiction of a male figure wearing high heels was a shock to an otherwise ignorant community, one that wanted to ignore any and every indication that one might be different.
Steers used his work as a prod to American culture and its defects. In an interview with QW Magazine a few years prior to his death, he gave his opinion on his own work and its relation to others.
“‘I think I’m in the tradition of a certain kind of American artist—artists whose work embodies a certain gorgeous blackness,’” Steers said. “‘Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline—they all have this austere beauty to them. I think that’s what characterizes America. The atmosphere, its culture, its cities and landscape. They all have that soft glow of brutality.’”
While paintings are the most popular method of creating works of art, artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres used sculpture as his medium of expression.
This 1991 piece affectionately named Untitled: Portrait of Ross in L.A, is a 175-pound installation of wrapped candy currently calling the Art Institute of Chicago home.
The 175-pounds represents Gonzalez-Torres’ late boyfriend, Ross Layrock. It begins as a healthy load of candy but as viewers come and are beckoned to take a piece, it slowly diminishes until there’s nothing left.
It’s a physical representation of what HIV/AIDS does to a person, slowly eating away at everything that made them human.
Layrock was diagnosed in 1987, the same year as Steers, and shortly thereafter, Gonzalez-Torres himself was also diagnosed.
His work is vastly different from any social piece from the time, as he offers his piece up to the world and asks them to slowly destroy it. In an interview with Tim Rollins just a year before his death, he shared a sentiment regarding his work.
“‘Above all else, it is about leaving a mark that I existed,’” he said. “‘I was here. I was hungry. I was defeated. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea and I had a good purpose and that’s why I made works of art.’”
His connection to the disease was the inspiration for all of his mature works, granting the public a view into the reality of what they ignorantly named the “gay cancer.”
The point of art is expression. The pieces created by Haring, Steers and Gonzalez-Torres are just a few examples of the thousands of sculptures, paintings and drawings created by people affected by HIV/AIDS.
There are thousands of people and artists alike who deserve recognition for their activism, especially during a time so crushing and spurned.
It was a mission to gain clarity and understanding from the public, one that they eventually received many years after their deaths.
All three artists mentioned died within a few years of their diagnoses, never getting to fully see the shift in public perception. They never had the opportunity to see the impact their pieces made on the movement to fight stigma.
“As in all things, time will clarify the events which are presently unclear,” Haring wrote.
December is HIV/AIDS Awareness Month, Universal Human Rights Month, Seasonal Affective Disorder Awareness Month and Dressember.
Dressember’s movement is to spread awareness for human trafficking and to fight against it by wearing a dress or tie during December.
“I didn’t know about Dressember until now,” junior Alaina Blend said. “I do like the cause and spreading awareness for human trafficking and I would definitely help fundraise.”
The fundraising program started in 2009, when Dressember CEO and Founder Blythe Hill challenged and pledged herself to wear a dress every day of December. More and more people joined to challenge themselves until this pledge turned into a way for anyone to fight against human trafficking and spread awareness.
“Most of the tips I’ve heard about how to be cautious and avoid being trafficked have been learned from social media or my family,” Blend said. “Schools should do more to spread awareness.”
Every December people across the world make a pledge to wear a dress or tie for all 31 days of the month. They are able to make their own website through Dressember’s main site to start their campaign. The journey starts with making a money goal, promoting it in communities and through social media.
The website sells pins that say, “ask me about my dress,” or tie to catch people’s attention so they want to ask and learn more about the cause.
Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings through recruitment or abduction by means of force, fraud or coercion for the purposes of forced labor, debt bondage or sexual exploitation.
Human trafficking victims can be any age, race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, nationality, immigration status, cultural background, religion and education attainment level.
Making out a number of how many victims there are is difficult due to the fact that the crime of it is often hidden and offenders try to keep their actions secretive.
Trafficking victims are usually forced to live in small spaces with many other people, no heat and no electricity.
Donating to these campaigns that people make through Dressember is a good way to support victims and survivors of human trafficking.
“I think we should do a fundraiser, I think it would bring awareness to the students and help the community,” senior Taylor Werts said.
Dressember is a way to fight against human trafficking and spread awareness during the month of December. Women and men all around the world can easily participate in the pledge to wear a dress or tie every day. These clothing articles are usually something people already own so not too much money is spent on it.
“I didn’t know what Dressember was at first, but after looking into it, I’m very glad there’s something to bring awareness up about sex trafficking,” Werts said.