Anchoring AIDS Garden Chicago will be ‘Self-Portrait,’ a 30-foot tall sculpture by iconic late artist and activist Keith Haring. This sculpture will be the only one of its size in existence, and is a welcome addition to Chicago’s collection of public art in the parks.
‘Self-Portrait’ is provided through a generous gift from the Keith Haring Foundation with the support of Rosenthal Fine Art, Inc.
“There is no stronger activist than Keith Haring to help us honor the lives of those lost, and celebrate those who work tirelessly to educate and raise awareness. ‘Self-Portrait’s new home at AIDS Garden Chicago is a small but powerful way to continue talking about the epidemic as we fight to bring both HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths to zero.”
— Alderman Tom Tunney
Chicago’s 44th Ward
An Historic Chicago Location
The Belmont Rocks
AIDS Garden Chicago will be built within 2.5 acres along the magnificent shore of Lake Michigan at the original location of the Belmont Rocks, a space where the local gay community gathered between the 1960s and 1990s. “The Rocks” were about claiming the right to be out of the shadows and out of the closet.
Since the early days of the gay movement, the Belmont Rocks were a place to call our own. The lakefront stretch of stone and grass from Belmont to Diversey harbors was a public space Chicago’s LGBTQ community claimed from the 1960s through the 1990s. This was more than a frequented area. The Rocks were a political statement tied to our liberation, a symbol of our right to be here, our right to exist, and our right to gather outside and in the sunlight at a time when our bars still had blackened windows.
Community happened along this undesirable strip of uneven limestone blocks. Relationships and friendships happened there, hook-ups, unions, memorials, picnics, cookouts, dance parties, and rallies. Artwork covered many of these stones. At the Rocks, people lay in the sun, watched the sunset before going out, and sat to watch the sunrise after the bars closed.
In 2003, the Belmont Rocks were bulldozed and removed as part of a revetment project to safeguard against shoreline erosion. The Rocks themselves may be gone, but this portion of the Chicago shoreline will forever remain a place of celebration, joy, and remembrance in the pre-AIDS era and throughout the darkest days of the epidemic.
— Owen Keehnen
Chicago Author & Historian
SITE DESIGN & GARDEN SPACES
A GARDEN FOR ALL
Anchoring AIDS Garden Chicago will be a 30-foot rendition of ‘Self-Portrait,’ the iconic sculpture by late artist and activist Keith Haring. The surrounding Garden will include pocket areas designed for reflection, education, honor, and pride.
Visitors will be guided with markers and milestones through a variety of intimate and collective garden spaces all providing a sensory nature experience, the most notable being a memorable grove of Gingko trees and a perennial garden of natural plantings at the entrance. A serpentine path will be the site for future temporary art installations organized by community partners.
MAIN GARDEN ENTRANCE
An inviting space with artistically located limestone boulders along an entrance wall under the shade of a Gingko tree.
Secondary entries into the garden. Parking access with ornamental planting beds.
A serpentine walk with colored concrete bands located at intervals to signify important moments in Chicago’s fight against the epidemic. An educational element for the visitors.
Planting beds at the confluence of the paths will be an opportunity for the community to participate in gardening and activities throughout the year.
Informal seating under the Gingko grove will provide visitors a quiet place to reflect.
With the sculpture as the focal point, the oval walk has colored concrete bands in the pattern of sun-rays. The pattern is continued into the lawn area where strategically located boulders bring back the memories of the Belmont Rocks.