ST. LOUIS – Over a dozen volunteers descended on an icy Art Hill in Forest Park at 1 a.m. this morning to spell out the word AIDS using tea light candles placed in bags.


AIDS on Art Hill, an art installation to commemorate World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, was the brainchild of St. Louis-based HIV/AIDS activist Aaron Laxton. While the event was ultimately scrapped due to freezing rain, volunteers, led by Terry Laupp and Chad Carroll, were able to finish the outline of the letters before shutting down around 4 a.m.


“It all came down to freezing rain making the candles unable to be lit,” Carroll posted to Facebook. “Aaron got 10 of them lit but only two remained burning. It's disappointing, but we did the best we could! All our planning, and systems and organization worked perfectly. if not for the weather it would have been AMAZING! Now we know how to do it.”


AIDS on Art Hill was on track to break a Guiness World Record for the most candles lit in one location (over 12,135). Organizers used a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to cover the costs of candles, paper bags, sand – and the $1,000 permit.


With letters 100 feet tall and spanning 200 feet wide, the installation was certain to garner a wide array of media coverage and draw attention to World AIDS Day.


“A-R-T is the medication I take, anti-retroviral therapy, so there’s a very symbolic meaning of using Art Hill,” Laxton told St. Louis Public Radio. “And it’s the site of the World’s Fair, where we led the world with new discoveries.”