Cal Anderson was Washington state’s first openly gay legislator – an activist in his own right – who succumbed to AIDS in 1995 at the age of 47. As a democrat, he served in both chambers representing the 43rd Legislative District. Seattle’s former mayor, Ed Murray, served as his campaign manager during the 1988 legislative race and later went on to become the city’s first openly gay mayor.
Anderson’s legacy has lived on in the spirit of Capitol Hill residents since April 10, 2003 when Cal Anderson Park (1635 11th Ave., Seattle, WA 98122) was renamed in his honor. Now, leaders in the community are preparing to honor Anderson’s contributions with another historic project: the Seattle AIDS Legacy Memorial (SALM).
Slated to open late in 2019, the SALM will be housed adjacent to Cal Anderson Park above the light rail station. Nearby, 59,000 square feet of gathering space, including 400 affordable living apartment units and 200 underground parking slots, will converge with the installation. The goal here is community, organizers say.
So far, there is plenty of buy in, including Sound Transit (who issued a public letter of intent to support the project relocating the Broadway Farmer’s Market to make way for the new space). If all goes according to plan, a new night market may also spring into action. The City of Seattle issued a payment of $75,000 to get the project underway. The committee is fundraising for additional monetary requirements.
According to the Seattle Parks Foundation, former Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, along with Leonard Garfield, executive director of the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI), and Michele Hasson, community volunteer, convened a group of stakeholders in summer 2015 to assess interest in creating a memorial to recognize those lost during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s-90s as well as our communities’ responses to it. Seattle City Council provided funding to MOHAI to identify sites for the memorial, engage with community leaders, identify design parameters and goals, and seat a Community Advisory Group, with three subcommittees: Community In-reach, Content & Experience, and Fund Development.
The Community Advisory Group identified and vetted a number of prospective sites for the Seattle AIDS Legacy Memorial. The group concluded the best of these to be a site consisting of the northern edge of Cal Anderson Park, the adjacent public plaza at the Capitol Hill Link light rail Transit-oriented Development (CHTOD), and the connecting festival street block of East Denny Way.
Currently, it is estimated that 36.7 million people are living with HIV or AIDS globally. In Washington state, seven out of every 100,000 people are living with AIDS. King County notes another 6,968 people are living with HIV.
SALM organizers are now calling for artists to help design the undertaking. Artistic proposals will be considered in the coming months. Participants are encouraged to help remember King County’s AIDS crisis through visuals reflecting remembrance of a community ravaged by the health crisis that changed the landscape of an entire intersection of lives throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s.
“The great thing coming out of this project is that people are sharing stories they’ve never told anyone before,” George Bakan, one of the SALM organizers, said. “We, as a community, were devastated during the AIDS crisis and our stories need to be told.”
One specific group not previously recognized: the women.
“Women came in to help when all the men were dying,” he said. “It’s time to hold up these women and thank them. This is the women’s time.”
Another community organizer, Paul Feldman, said he hoped visitors would find inspiration in the monument and “hear stories we’ve never heard before.”
These intimate stories have been relayed between organizing members for years now, but the project is only now being confirmed publicly.
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