Much anticipated park on Chicago’s lakefront now open for reflection, remembrance, and relaxation; just in time to celebrate Pride Month
On Thursday, civic and community leaders gathered in Lakeview to cut the ribbon on the long-awaited AIDS Garden Chicago.
The 2.5 acre park 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, is a tribute to those who died from the disease -- and those still fighting it.
“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 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.”
The Garden is the city's first public park to memorialize the early days of the HIV epidemic. It includes unique areas designed for reflection, education, honor and pride.
“AIDS Garden Chicago is a living garden and an educational tool that symbolizes the resiliency of the LGBTQ community. AIDS Garden Chicago is a safe space for all: those who are queer or straight, those with any gender identity, those from any race or ethnicity,” said Alderman Tom Tunney (44th ward). “The AIDS epidemic impacted people of all backgrounds from all communities and walks of life and we recognize the human toll for all.”
Added Chicago Parks Foundation Executive Director Willa Lang, “It has been an honor and privilege for the Chicago Parks Foundation to lead this project with the community, Alderman Tunney, and the Chicago Park District. This is just the beginning of this park's potential."
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.'
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 Chicago Parks 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.
“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 backwards 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.”