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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 15, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 28
Community stops vandalism of HIV30 project on Broadway's red wall
Section One
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Community stops vandalism of HIV30 project on Broadway's red wall

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Vandalism in our Gayborhood will not be tolerated.

On July 17, a man began to calmly cut and remove the HIV30 community art project on the Broadway red wall, the site of a major light rail construction project. It wasn't the Seattle Police Department (SPD) that stopped the man from destroying the important art piece, but passersby who would not stand idly by as someone defaced a community project.

Witnesses say a woman confronted the man as he tried to remove the HIV30 installation, a piece which commemorates 30 years of HIV/AIDS in Seattle, while another witness to the crime called SPD.

The man was calm and not combative as he fled the scene.

'I think it's fantastic that people stepped in to stop the young man, and such a great testament to the way the community has really taken ownership of the project,' Fred Swanson, executive director of the Gay City Health Project, told Seattle Gay News. 'It's really brave and honorable to confront someone in a situation like this.'

But what happened next was even more incredible, said Swanson.

Members of the local community began to repair the cut and frayed edges of the giant art installation with tape.

'This part was particularly heartwarming to me, and was another clear display of how much this project means to the community,' he said. 'These folks could have just left the damage, but they went out of their way to try and make it better. When I walked by afterwards to check out the damage, seeing the tape was such a powerful symbol of this community ownership.'

The HIV30 display is important and, as it was officially unveiled in a public ceremony last Thursday, it struck a chord with anyone that has been touched by the HIV/AIDS epidemic - then and now.

'Trying to capture 30 years of HIV is overwhelming, but it's an important milestone in our community and world,' Swanson told SGN. 'The original idea of a multi-phased project blending art and history came from a discussion initiated by Ro Yoon from the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. We wanted to remember and honor, to both celebrate progress and to reflect on those we have lost.'

'We gathered a collective of community members including artists, volunteers, and staff at local agencies, people living with and affected by HIV, and just began mapping out what it might look like,' he said. 'This first phase was intended to allow people to reflect on some of the local and national historical events. The next two phases will be both more personal and interactive. We're grateful for the support of Pride Foundation and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Abbey of St. Joan, who joined the HIV Vaccine Trials Network and Gay City to help fund the project.'

Swanson maintains that the vandalism and attempt to bring down the art piece has only strengthened their resolve to move forward with the project.

'Oh, we are more motivated than ever, particularly after the amazing reception this timeline received and the incredible display of community support both before and especially following the vandalism,' he said.

In addition, Swanson reports that Ernie Lehman at BGI Print Solutions (who did the initial print job) has generously stepped forward to reprint it for free.

Plans are in the works to protect the art installation from future attempts of vandalism. 'We are working in the group [HIV30] right now to identify a plan to better protect the banner print, as well as our phase II and III installations,' he said. 'Several people have offered to help find the funds to do that.'

'This project has been incredible, and we're so glad to be a part of it,' said Swanson. 'On a personal note, I will say that working with this team of community members to create this moment of reflection and celebration is such a powerful experience, and truly one of the highlights of my time at Gay City.'

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