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AIDS Garden Chicago officially opens on the lakefront · | Reel Chicago

photo credit: aidsgardenchicago.org

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photo credit: aidsgardenchicago.org

State and local government officials including Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and Governor JB Pritzker joined members of the LGBTQ+ community at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the much-anticipated AIDS Garden Chicago.

Located at Lake Shore Drive and Belmont Avenue, AIDS Garden Chicago is the city’s first public park to memorialize the early days of Chicago’s HIV epidemic and honors those who continue to fight against the disease today.

“I’m honored to officially cut the ribbon on the AIDS Garden Chicago in a place that means so much to our LGBTQ+ community,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “As we memorialize those we’ve lost to the HIV epidemic and inspire those who continue to fight the disease, it has never been more important to immortalize Belmont Rocks’ legacy as a safe space where people could gather, support one another, and be their full selves. I hope that residents and visitors alike will continue gathering here at our city’s newest symbol of liberation, individuality, and hope.”

The ceremony took place in front of the Garden’s signature piece, the bright green 30-foot Keith Haring sculpture, ‘Self-Portrait,’ guests were treated to a performance by the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus, followed by a powerful spoken word performance by Chicago -bred Black Queer playwright, poet, and activist Osiris Khepera.

“The AIDS Garden Chicago allows visitors to walk and reflect on both the progress we’ve made and how much further we have yet to go,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “At a time when states across this nation are moving backward and criminalizing our LGBTQ+ neighbors’ right to live freely, we are here to uplift the queer community and ensure that this city and this state is a sanctuary for LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms, no matter what.”

The 2.5 acre AIDS Garden Chicago is situated on Lake Michigan at the original location of the historic Belmont Rocks, a beloved space where the local LGBTQ+ community gathered between the 1960s and 1990s. The Garden’s first phase was completed in late 2019 with the installation of its anchor piece, the stunning 30-foot Keith Haring sculpture, ‘Self-Portrait.’

The Garden includes unique areas designed for reflection, education, honor, and pride. Visitors will be guided through a variety of collective garden spaces all providing a sensory nature experience, most notably a Gingko Grove of Reflection and the Sunrise Garden of Healing. The Foundation also hosts the AIDS Garden Story Archive, a digital quilt of personal shared experiences that are accessed via QR codes on signage throughout the Garden.

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