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Cal Anderson’s AIDS Memorial Pathway

Posted by Johnine Larsen on March 1, 2019
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The artwork isn’t even created yet—and the public won’t see it until late 2020—but the future AIDS Memorial Pathway (AMP) already speaks to my soul. The memorial will become a permanent addition on a plaza over Seattle’s Capitol Hill Light Rail Station and the north edge of Cal Anderson Park.

The AMP will use public art to invite remembrance and reflection, call viewers to action, and tell the history and lessons of King County’s AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 90s. The AMP will share stories about the AIDS epidemic and the diverse community responses to the crisis, and it will urge people to support current efforts to end HIV/AIDS, stigma, and discrimination.

“We’re thrilled to be able to connect the history of the neighborhood to be centrally located where all Seattleites tend to come,” said Paul Feldman of Seattle AIDS Legacy Memorial, the group funding the monument. “We’re hopeful, through careful planning and careful engagement, that we’ll hear stories we’ve never heard before and we’ll make clear to visitors that there’s still much work to do.”

As someone who was involved in Seattle’s LGBT culture in the 1990s, and as someone with many friends who experienced the horrors of AIDS and the societal responses to their illness, this art project hits close to home. Learning that friends and loved ones will be posthumously recognized and given a voice is cathartic. Knowing that this will become a public, permanent part of the Seattle I already know and love makes me appreciate this city all the more.

The AMP won’t be completed for another year and a half, but Lead Artist Horatio Law recently finished the Master Art Plan. The plan shows specific art zones, describes the requirements for permanent pieces, and shares essays that contextualize Seattle’s history with HIV/AIDS. This is a project that’s close to Law’s heart, too: “Much of my work stems from my identity and experience as a gay US citizen of Asian heritage,” he said.

In addition to memorializing Seattle’s AIDS crisis, the AMP will also bring more recognition to Cal Anderson, Washington State’s first openly gay legislator. Cal Anderson died from AIDS in 1995, at the age of 47. Furthermore, the AMP will create a space for community in Capitol Hill. Cal Anderson Park already exists as a hub for people of all walks of life, and as Seattle’s light rail continues to grow, the light rail will bring more and more people through the plaza.

As Lead Artist Horatio Law said, “Social interaction and community participation are important aspects in my installation work and public art projects. I create work for regular people that examines issues of identity, memory, history and the meaning of community. As a public artist who is interested in socially engaged work, I value collaboration and partnership with community members through collecting ideas, cultural materials, and engaging residents in planning and production of public art.”

Even before I’ve seen the art, I love this project. It memorializes the AIDS crisis, it recognizes Cal Anderson and everything his life did to advance LGBT rights, and it encourages and values life in community. I can’t wait to see it.