AIDS Garden Chicago Breaks Ground

Mayor Lori Lightfoot helps break ground for AIDS Garden Chicago. Photo courtesy Chicago Parks Foundation

On June 2, 2021, the Honorable Mayor Lori Lightfoot, other Chicago area civic leaders, and members of Chicago’s LGBTQ community broke ground on the long-awaited AIDS Garden Chicago, the city’s first public park to memorialize the early days of Chicago’s HIV epidemic, and to honor those who continue to fight against the disease today. The “park with purpose” expects to open in Fall 2021.

The 2.5-acre AIDS Garden Chicago is located on Lake Michigan lakefront at the original location of the historic Belmont Rocks, where the local gay community gathered between the 1960s and 1990s, just south of Belmont Avenue. The Garden’s first phase was completed in late 2019 with the installation of its anchor piece, the stunning thirty-foot Keith Haring sculpture, Self-Portrait.

Artist rendering of AIDS Garden Chicago

Once completed, the Garden will include areas designed for reflection, education, honor, and pride. Visitors will be able to wander through a variety of garden spaces providing a sensory experience of nature, most notably a Gingko Reflection Grove. The Chicago Parks Foundation, the non-profit public-private partner of Chicago’s Park District, will soon launch the AIDS Garden Story Archive, a digital quilt of personal shared experiences to be posted on the AIDS Garden Chicago website.

Osiris Khepera offered a spoken word performance at the ceremony. Photo courtesy Chicago Parks Foundation

The ceremony, conducted in front of the Haring sculpture, included a spoken word performance by Chicago-born Black Queer playwright, poet, and activist Osiris Khepera. Many people wore brightly colored hard hats reflecting the LGBTQ rainbow flag.

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—Reporting by Hank Trout


Hank Trout, Senior Editor, edited Drummer, Malebox, and Folsom magazines in the early 1980s. A long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS (diagnosed in 1989), he is a forty-year resident of San Francisco, where he lives with his husband Rick.