Capitol Hill Art Installation Commemorates Three Decades of HIV/AIDS

by Shaun Knittel
Contributor
Thursday Jul 21, 2011

It was 30 years ago last month that the Centers for Disease Control published an article reporting the first known cases of what is now called AIDS. As the HIV/AIDS epidemic begins its fourth decade, a collective of Seattle HIV/AIDS service organizations are working together to acknowledge and commemorate the past three decades through the HIV30: Take Action Seattle initiative.

Gay City Health Project; Seattle HIV Vaccine Trials Unit; AIDS Clinical Trials Unit; Seattle Area Support Groups; Rosehedge Multifaith Works; Babes Network - YWCA; Lifelong AIDS Alliance; MOMS Pharmacy; TheSeattleLesbian.com; Pride Foundation; the city of Seattle and King County comprise the organizations that have lent their support to HIV30.

The website is a resource for photos, memories and information related to all of our experiences over the last three decades.

Although the website is new it’s been quite active. Visitors to the site have uploaded photos of Cal Anderson, the state’s first openly gay legislator, old newspaper articles that documented the HIV/AIDS epidemic in its earliest days and much more.

On Thursday, July 14, the HIV30 group displayed a collaborative art installation on the Sound Transit "Red Wall" along Broadway on Capitol Hill. Organizers are working together to create a three-part art installation that both reflects and commemorates unique, individual and community experiences of the epidemic that changed the world’s landscape.

"The HIV30 Red Wall project shows so much history," said Fred Swanson, executive director for Gay City Health Project and a member of the HIV30 team. "The placards are everything from old Seattle Gay News articles, the ACT UP days, and so on. This project is so important."

Members of the local LGBT community joined HIV30 at the Sound Transit "Red Wall" on Broadway for the unveiling of the first section of the HIV30 Red Wall project, 30 Years, A Retrospective, on July 14 at 7 p.m.

This section depicts a graphic timeline of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the impacts it has had both locally and nationally. The unveiling featured an invocation and blessing from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence; and included remarks from Swanson, Robert Yoon of Seattle HIV Vaccine Trials Unit and Jeffrey Hedgepeth of the Pride Foundation.

"So many wonderful people worked on this project," said Yoon. "They all came together to make sure that nobody forgets. We did this to memorialize those people who are no longer with us and to support those who are still here, fighting this disease everyday."

Hedgepeth focused on the news.

"If you look at each one of these placards you will notice that, as time has passed, the news has gotten better," he said. "Eventually, it is our hope that the last placard will one day read the news we’ve all been waiting to hear."

The unveiling of the remaining two sections will take place over the next six months. The second section, which will be installed in early autumn, will showcase imagery representing people’s experiences with HIV/AIDS in Seattle. The third installation, which will be installed in conjunction with World AIDS Day in December, will demonstrate ways to stay involved and continue commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS.

To find out more information about the community art project or HIV30: Take Action Seattle, visit www.HIV-30.org.

Shaun Knittel is an openly gay journalist and public affairs specialist living in Seattle. His work as a photographer, columnist, and reporter has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to writing for EDGE, Knittel is the current Associate Editor for Seattle Gay News.

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