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Long-Awaited AIDS Garden Finally Breaks Ground — And Could Open This Fall

The garden has been in the works for more than a decade, but it's faced delays due to funding issues.

Keith Haring's 'Self Portrait' stands tall as local officials and community members gathered for the groundbreaking of the AIDS Garden Chicago near the Belmont rocks on June 2, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Officials finally broke ground on the long-awaited AIDS Garden on Wednesday, coinciding with the first week of LGBTQ Pride Month.

The garden has been in the works for more than a decade, but it’s faced delays due to funding issues. But it’s now expected to open in the fall, according to a news release.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), Rep. Mike Quigley and other members of Chicago’s LGBTQ community helped break ground on the project during Wednesday morning’s ceremony.

When finished, the public garden and memorial in honor of lives lost during the HIV/AIDS crisis of the ’80s and ’90s will feature an educational walk, reflective “healing garden” and grand lawn showcasing the large “Self-Portrait” sculpture by artist Keith Haring, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1990.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Local officials and community members gather for the groundbreaking of the AIDS Garden Chicago near the Belmont rocks on June 2, 2021.

For now, the 30-foot Haring statue stands alone in the parkland, located at 3003 N. Lakefront Trail near the “Belmont Rocks” where gay men would hang out in the ’80s.

The project is a public-private partnership to be funded by the city, state and Chicago Park Foundation, a nonprofit financial partner of the Chicago Park District, according to Willa Lang, executive director of the Parks Foundation.

Photos from the groundbreaking:

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Keith Haring’s ‘Self-Portrait’ shines in the sunlight as local officials and community members gathered for the groundbreaking of the AIDS Garden Chicago near the Belmont rocks on June 2, 2021.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Rainbow colored helmets sit on the table as local officials and community members gathered for the groundbreaking of the AIDS Garden Chicago near the Belmont rocks on June 2, 2021.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Local officials and community members gather for the groundbreaking of the AIDS Garden Chicago near the Belmont rocks on June 2, 2021.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) looks on as local officials and community members gathered for the groundbreaking of the AIDS Garden Chicago near the Belmont rocks on June 2, 2021.

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