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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 6, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 45
Seattle HIV/AIDS memorial planners seek support
Section One
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Seattle HIV/AIDS memorial planners seek support

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen may be leaving City Hall early next year, but he's made it very clear that that does not mean he is leaving Seattle - or the LGBTQ community for that matter - one bit. In fact, as a part of his recommendations for the last city of Seattle budget he will work on in his current capacity as a councilmember, Rasmussen is asking for the council to include, and for city of Seattle residents to support, the building of an HIV/AIDS memorial project, which, according to Rasmussen, could include a garden, monument, or online interactive website or maybe even all three.

Seattle Gay News met with Rasmussen on Wednesday to discuss the need for such a project, how much is being budgeted for the project and from whom the money and ideas will come from.

'This is a community investment in planning for an AIDS Legacy Memorial Project in Seattle - and diverse stakeholder groups will be closely involved,' he said.

As it stands, this proposed planning project would identify the scale, scope and content of an AIDS Legacy/Memorial Project - identifying possible options including physical space or location, and/or creating an online presence or an exhibition.

In the first two decades of the AIDS epidemic, Seattle experienced a tragic loss of nearly 4,000 persons.

'The epidemic was met by a cross-section of our community who worked creatively and tirelessly in the face of fear and discrimination to help those diagnosed with the HIV virus,' Rasmussen told SGN.

'The history of the early days of the AIDS epidemic and how Seattle responded has not been comprehensively collected or recorded or presented,' he added, saying that this important work needs to be done because many from that generation are aging or have moved away as examples of why the time has come to get started.

'It is important that the experience of those who were first on the front lines of the battle against AIDS and the stories of the lives that were lost be chronicled,' he said.

According to Rasmussen, the goal of the legacy/memorial project is to tell the history of Seattle's AIDS Crisis of the 1980s and early 1990s, to capture the lessons of the crisis and the diverse community response from those who were there, and to provide a continuing call to civic action against fear and discrimination and for HIV prevention.

Rasmussen points out that 'sharing this history is consistent with the recommendation of Mayor Murray's LGBTQ Task Force that highlighted the need for the City to improve the public's understanding of the history, current place, and values of the LGBTQ community.'

Rasmussen is an openly Gay elected official and was, in fact, the first openly Gay man elected to the Seattle City Council nearly thirteen years ago. He decided to not run for reelection this year and will step down from his seat on the council early next year. Rasmussen lost a partner to the epidemic and many friends - like many Gay men from an era when the epidemic was at its peak - to HIV/AIDS so he has a vested interest beyond the need or want to see this thing come to fruition. Speaking with him about the project you can tell that this is something he deeply believes in; it is something that many believe we should all want to see become a reality.

Organizations like Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea) have asked for community support to build or erect an HIV/AIDS memorial previously; but this marks the first time that a city official will be asking that the project get funding through a city budget.

Rasmussen is asking that the city grant $75,000 to The Office of Arts and Culture in 2016 for the project. That budget would be supplemented by a required $75,000 community support match (provided by The Museum of History & Industry). Additionally, MOHAI has proposed to take a leadership role in the planning and proposing an appropriate Seattle AIDS Legacy/Memorial project. The City will contract for the work with MOHAI or another qualified entity (contractor) for the work.

Funding would support the following activities:

o Convene and staff an advisory committee of diverse community members familiar with or involved in the response to the AIDS crisis.

o Conduct a series of public focus groups to gather input about the character of a legacy/memorial project.

o Engage artists, design and engineering professionals and historians and curators to develop concepts.

o Prepare collateral materials to share options of a legacy/memorial project.

o Produce a final report that outlines scale, location, timeline, financial information, and other components of the project.

o Complete preliminary research and present legacy/memorial options to the advisory committee which would reach consensus on a recommended legacy/memorial project and course action.

In the mean time, Rasmussen is asking for anyone who wishes to support this project to email Councilmembers at council@seattle.gov and tell them that you want this project funded.

Seattle Gay News fully supports this project and joins the chorus of voices calling for this project to see the light of day.

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