AIDS GARDEN CHICAGO To Unveil 30-Foot Keith Haring Sculpture

Sculpture Credit: Keith Haring Foundation

The Chicago Parks Foundation today announced that the first phase of the new AIDS Garden Chicago will be complete this Fall with the unveiling of a specially-commissioned 30-foot-high sculpture, Self-Portrait, by iconic HIV/AIDS activist and artist, the late Keith Haring. (Precise installation date to be announced.)

AIDS Garden Chicago will be the city’s first public monument to memorialize the early days of Chicago’s HIV epidemic and to honor those who continue to fight against the disease today.   As previously released, the new 2.5-acre public lakefront garden will be located along Lake Michigan just south of Belmont Harbor, at the original location of the ‘Belmont Rocks,’ a space where the local gay community gathered between the 1960s and 1990s. 

“The fight against HIV/AIDS represents more than a health epidemic: it symbolizes a time in our history when the LGBTQ+ and ally communities came together in the face of tragedy,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “We lost countless neighbors and friends and relatives over the years, but we have made significant strides in combatting the virus. What was one of the darkest moments of the 20th century has given way to a blooming garden of hope and love; this new AIDS Garden Chicago will serve as a permanent reminder of how far we have come and as a way to honor those who continue the work of getting to zero new HIV infections.”

“The Chicago Parks Foundation is so honored to be a part of this historic and legacy project for the city and all the communities and individuals who have been affected and still are living with HIV/AIDS.  We are far from eradicating the disease, but this garden and iconic Keith Haring sculpture will serve as a beacon of hope and unity for all.  This is truly a park with a purpose and a message,” said Chicago Parks Foundation Executive Director Willa Lang.

“We have worked closely with some of our longtime community leaders, held meetings with various community groups and are now excited to start phase one of this overdue project,” said Alderman Tom Tunney (44). “Self-Portrait’s new home at AIDS Garden Chicago, in the 44th Ward, is a small but powerful way to continue talking about the epidemic as we fight to bring both HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths to zero.”

Bold, bright green and nearly three stories high, Self-Portrait will be the largest iteration of this popular sculpture that has ever been fabricated, and the Chicago Parks Foundation expects it to be the Garden’s signature anchor and gathering point.  Working with the Chicago Park District and designed by landscape architects Design Workshop, AIDS Garden Chicago is set to be complete in 2020 and will include unique areas designed for reflection, education, honor, and pride.  Visitors will be guided with markers and milestones through a variety of intimate and collective garden spaces to be coordinated and maintained by community gardeners still in formation.  This park garden will provide a sensory nature experience; the most notable being a memorable grove of Gingko trees and a perennial garden of natural plantings at the entrance. A serpentine path will be the site for future temporary art installations organized by community partners.

Self-Portrait is provided to AIDS Garden Chicago through a generous gift from the Keith Haring Foundation with personal financial support from Alderman Tom Tunney that was matched by the Alphawood Foundation Chicago.  Rosenthal Fine Art, which facilitated the conversation with the Haring Foundation, was established here in 1986 and has most recently been dedicated to making art more accessible to the public through partnerships with private developers and city agencies.

Keith Haring (1958-1990) generously contributed his talents and resources to numerous causes. In 1989, Haring established a foundation to ensure that his philanthropic legacy would continue indefinitely. The Keith Haring Foundation supports arts and educational institutions by funding exhibitions, educational programs, and publications that serve to contextualize and illuminate the artist’s work and philosophy.

Alderman Tom Tunney and the Chicago Parks Foundation thank all the valuable partners still in formation and continuing to grow, including the Keith Haring Foundation, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Alphawood Foundation Chicago, Center on Halsted, Friends of the Parks, Howard Brown Health, and Legacy Project.  The Chicago Parks Foundation welcomes additional financial partners to help bring the project to completion.

The Chicago Parks Foundation, the charitable partner to the Chicago Park District, was established in 2013 as a nonprofit to operate in a private-public partnership in support of Chicago’s parks, independent and collaborative in spirit. The Foundation facilitates over $2.3 million in grants annually that support Chicago parks and park programs. More information can be found at https://www.chicagoparksfoundation.org/

More information on AIDS Garden Chicago can be found at AIDSgardenchicago.org.