AIDS Garden Chicago supporters gathered Dec. 20 at the 2.5 acre lakefront garden site south of Belmont Harbor near the location of the now-defunct Belmont Rocks to celebrate the installation of the 30 foot Keith Haring sculpture “Self Portrait.”


The sculpture is a unique larger version of a smaller piece that the late iconic artist and AIDS activist Haring created in 1989 with the same name and will serve as AIDS Garden Chicago’s anchor point. The garden is Chicago’s first public monument to memorialize and educate people about the city’s continuing HIV/AIDS epidemic and is set to be completed sometime in 2020.


This sculpture installation is the culmination of almost two years of work by Alderman Tom Tunney ( 44th Ward ) who enlisted the Chicago Parks Foundation to be the garden’s fiscal partner and facilitator in securing the gift from the Keith Haring Foundation.


AIDS Garden Chicago’s community partners include Tunney’s office, Chicago Parks Foundation, Chicago Park District, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Alphawood Foundation Chicago, Center on Halsted, Design Workshop, Friends of the Park, Howard Brown Health, Keith Haring Foundation, The Legacy Project, Michael Garzel Graphic Design, Rosenthal Fine Art, Inc., TAWANI Foundation and The Silverman Group, Inc. with more to come.


A breakfast reception took place at the Belmont Yacht Club following pictures at the sculpture featuring Center on Halsted CEO Modesto Tico Valle, John Chikow, Victoria Noe, Chicago Parks Foundation Executive Director Willa Lang, local community gardener Lorraine Kells, Chicago Park District Cultural and Natural Resources Department Art Initiatives Manager Michael Dimitroff, Tunney, Anne Black, Paige Zelinsky, Rosenthal Fine Art, Inc’s Dennis Rosenthal, Legacy Project Executive Director Victor Salvo, Janet Sumrall, Owen Keehnen, Sandra Olson, Michael Garzel, Roberta Saper, Sonia Horvath and Chris Jessup.


Tunney said the lack of a response to the AIDS epidemic was the catalyst for his decision to run for alderman. He spoke about the history of the Belmont Rocks and his goal of retaining much of that landscape during the revetment process along the lakefront as well as his over a decade-long dream of making this garden come alive.


Rosenthal spoke about how eager the Keith Haring Foundation was to have this sculpture as the garden’s anchor point.


Salvo said the garden’s role is to “capture the story of HIV/AIDS in Chicago” with a winding path through the garden featuring memorials in chronological order. He explained that this part of the garden will come at a later date.


Kells spoke about the garden design while Dimitroff said the park district is always looking for new ways to utilize the lakefront and this garden will give the space a vibrancy that it has not had for many decades.


Lang spoke about the road to completion and future plans to raise awareness about the garden throughout Chicago. She said the fundraising process is ongoing and called on attendees to spread the word about the garden.


AIDS Garden Chicago leadership will be meeting to discuss next steps.


See www.aidsgardenchicago.org/ for more information and/or to make a donation.


Earlier coverage at www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/AIDS-garden-planned-for-Belmont-Rocks-Haring-art-to-be-included/62238.html and www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/-AIDS-Garden-Chicago-announces-Keith-Haring-Foundation-partnership/64237.html .





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