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and Josh Sherman More than 300 people brought umbrellas into Center City on Friday. But it was not raining. A black umbrella procession to John F. Kennedy Plaza began the celebration of the sixth annual Day Without Art -- Philadelphia's observance of World AIDS Day. Leaving from four downtown sites, participants converged by the city's famous LOVE sculpture to hear speeches recognizing those stricken with AIDS -- particularly artists. About 20 University students, faculty members and employees attended the march. They said the convergence of the processions symbolized the world coming together for a common cause. "The most powerful thing for me was that as we were walking in, there were three other groups descending at the same time and there was such a showing of support," Institute of Contemporary Art Education Curator Susan Witmer said. The ceremony started with the reading of names of AIDS victims. Each name was followed by a drumbeat from the Philadelphia High School for Girls drum corps. This was followed by speeches from various members of the Philadelphia community, including Mayor Ed Rendell. Speakers urged the crowd to do more than march and donate money, but to also write Congress. To commemorate the arts, Bucks County Poet Laureate River Huston, who is HIV-positive, read a poem entitled "Death Is for the Dead." The Unity Fellowship Church choir sang "Soon I Will Be Done." This year's celebration drew 300 people, compared with last year's 500. Philadelphia Museum of Art spokesperson David Singer said he did not know the cause for the decrease in participation. But Witmer was pleased with the involvement of University students. "I think [the turnout] was good," she said. "Of course, we'd always like to have more students." Witmer said every city observes World AIDS Day differently and that Philadelphia's tradition is special. "It's fairly unique," she said. "Cities do different things. The umbrella procession is unequaled." The city observed Day Without Art in other ways too, many of which incorporated the city's children. Singer said the Philadelphia Museum of Art displayed a special exhibition, entitled "Think Twice: An AIDS Story," which was created by Philadelphia area junior and senior high school students. It also hosted a poetry reading by poet Tom Andrews yesterday. And Witmer said the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the American Red Cross and the School District of Philadelphia sponsored an essay contest that asked students what the world would be like without art.

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