Provincetown Unveils Long-Delayed AIDS Memorial

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The Provincetown AIDS Memorial, designed by artist Lauren Ewing. Photo: Cherie Mittenthal

After a delay of sixteen years, the city of Provincetown, Massachusetts, unveiled its memorial to the lives lost to AIDS.

Several factors contributed to the delay: location selection took quite a while, there was initial push-back from the Provincetown Art Commission regarding maintenance of the Memorial, and fundraising and the selection of an artist to create the memorial took longer than hoped.

But finally, on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on the East Lawn of Town Hall, the City of Provincetown unveiled its AIDS Memorial, a seventeen-ton Brazilian quartzite monument, a square comprised of two blocks cut from one quartzite block, a stone chosen for its ability to withstand harsh New England winters. The monument measures three feet tall and nine feet on all four sides; on the east- and west-facing sides, the word remembering is engraved. The other sides contain inscriptions from five P-town poets. The top is carved to resemble waves on the Atlantic.

The designer of the monument, sculptor and installation artist Lauren Ewing, told Wicked Local Provincetown on the day it was dedicated, “Today we live in a time that is very rough and we need more humanitarian acts and more understanding, forgiveness, compassion. And that’s what happened here in the 1980s, before anyone understood that AIDS was an equal opportunity destroyer.” Regarding the design of the monument, she continued, “The concept here was to take a moment of ocean time and equate that with the uniqueness of a human life…[t]he transitory nature of a human life, the transitory nature of a moment in time.” In choosing the ocean as her inspirational metaphor, Ewing wanted to create “something that belongs to everyone,” something that would be a permanent and maybe much-loved part of the Provincetown community.

Brian O’Malley addressing the crowd at the dedication ceremony. Photo: Cherie Mittenthal

At the dedication, Jay Critchley explained that he had just returned from a memorial in Ft. Lauderdale for the forty-nine lives lost in the Pulse Nightclub massacre. As the Founder (in 1993) of the Provincetown Community Compact, he spoke at the Memorial’s dedication. “[With] my remarks and the song I presented,” Mr. Critchley told A&U, “I wanted to connect the AIDS struggle with the historic and contemporary struggle.”

Cherie Mittenthal, member and past chair of the Provincetown Cultural Council who has been part of this project for fifteen years and was instrumental in the project’s fundraising and the selection of Lauren Ewing’s elegant design, recently told A&U, “As an Artist and a resident of Provincetown, I am extremely excited to have been part of the group who organized and chose the AIDS Memorial for the Town of Provincetown. It was an important time in Provincetown during the early eighties and nineties, where people came to get support, to come and live with AIDS, and to also die with AIDS in dignity. The Cultural Council thought it was important to honor those who passed, but to also honor those who lived through this time.”

For more information on the AIDS Memorial and the Provincetown Art Commission, log on to: www.provincetown-ma.gov/index.aspx?NID=110.

—Reporting by Hank Trout


Hank Trout, Editor at Large, edited Drummer, Malebox, and Folsom magazines in the early 1980s. A long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS (diagnosed in 1989), he is a thirty-eight-year resident of San Francisco, where he lives with his fiancé Rick Greathouse. Follow him on Twitter @HankTroutWriter.