LAKEVIEW — Two years have passed since 49 people were killed at Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando — the second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history — but for members of Chicago’s LGBTQ community, the psychological wounds of the attack remain fresh.
“The reality is we all know what it feels like to be discriminated against, that feeling of someone hating us. It could have been me,” said restaurateur Angie Wines, who’s hosted a long-running tailgate party during Chicago’s Pride Parade.
To aid in the healing, Wines has spearheaded an effort to bring the Orlando Traveling Memorial to Chicago.
The memorial — which encompasses portraits of the 49 victims, along with hundreds of handprints of survivors and first responders, among others — will make its first stop outside Orlando at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., an LGBTQ community center. The grand opening is set for 6-8 p.m. Friday, with the exhibit running for six weeks. Tickets to the opening event are $30, which will help cover the costs of printing the victim portraits. (Donations are also being accepted here.)
Wines viewed the memorial while visiting her grandmother in Orlando this past summer — “It was important to me to pay my respects,” she said — and felt an immediate connection.
“They’re just so stunning,” she said of the portraits, which were painted by victims’ family members using a unique paint-by-numbers scheme.
“Looking at all the names and the faces, you understand these were people with lives and stories and families,” Wines said.
She contacted the memorial’s organizer, Colleen Ardaman, initially just to express her gratitude and praise, and wound up meeting with Ardaman in person.
“I asked, ‘Where is it going next?’ and Colleen said she was so exhausted she didn’t have any plans,” Wines recalled.
Wines has a way of making things happen.
She reached out to a friend, Vivian Gonzalez, art director at Center on Halsted, and a deal was quickly struck.
Orlando may be a thousand miles from Chicago but the act of hate against the Pulse victims affected LGBTQ individuals across the country, Gonzalez said.
“This will definitely deeply resonate in Chicago,” she said.
While some visitors may find the memorial therapeutic, Gonzalez acknowledged that it may prove traumatic for others. The center will have support staff on hand during the opening event to assist anyone disturbed by the exhibit, she said.
In hosting the exhibit, the center is signaling support for Orlando as well as demonstrating the resilience of the LGBTQ community, but it also shows there’s still work to be done, Gonzalez said.
“There’s a lot of hate in the world. The exhibit advocates for why we work so hard for these causes. It’s a reminder of why we do what we do,” Gonzalez said.
Both Gonzalez and Wines expressed hope that the exhibit would attract visitors outside the LGBTQ community.
“I want all of Chicago to know about this,” Wines said. “It’s about teaching acceptance. You read a bio of [a victim] who loved to salsa dance and it’s hard not to relate. You can set aside your differences.”
The Orlando Traveling Memorial opens Oct. 12 at the Center on Halsted. Admission to the exhibit, apart from the opening reception, is free.
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