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    Artists Portal Added to the National AIDS Memorial

    By John Cunningham and Tom Jensen–

    The National AIDS Memorial was conceived by a small group of San Franciscans, moved by the devastating AIDS crisis, as a living memorial to all people touched by AIDS. As our nation’s only federally-designated memorial to AIDS, the memorial holds the responsibility to tell the stories of the epidemic, the stories of prejudice, stigma and discrimination; the stories of love, compassion and the eloquence of a community’s response.

    In choosing the long-ignored and neglected 10-acre de Laveaga Dell in Golden Gate Park, the founders, along with hundreds of volunteers, turned a forgotten and sidelined tract into an intimate, expansive memorial with national and international recognition. It was a deeply heartfelt desire to respond, to take action, to bring light to dark days.

    Another story has now taken root. 

    Dr. Tim Seelig Envisions Artists Portal

    In 2011, Dr. Tim Seelig, the then new artistic director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, reached out to me and together we walked the National AIDS Memorial. Anyone who knows Tim knows that he is a visionary and is deeply passionate about his work and his community. During that walk, Tim spoke of the immeasurable loss that impacted the vast arts communities across the nation in the early days and ensuing years of the epidemic. It is a loss that remains in individual and collective grief and memory. 

    He talked about the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, who lost so many men that they christened a “Fifth Section,” in memoriam to the now over three-hundred voices who were silenced by AIDS. Tim talked of the chorus’ desire to honor and remember these artists, and all artists, in a more solid and tangible way. As we walked between the light and shadows of the memorial it became very clear that this vision was so necessary for not only San Francisco, but also for our nation. Artists give joy, inspiration and hope, and impart truth, ideas and societal change.

    Over the last seven years, a group of dedicated individuals continued to meet to discuss and hone the vision to create such a space. What was lost on Broadway, in Hollywood, in the fashion world, and within the galleries, halls, cafes and stages of every community will never be wholly known, but the lives of some of the most creative and vibrant souls must never be forgotten. In 2017, the National AIDS Memorial completed a memorial circle to honor the national Hemophilia community, who lost half of its population tragically as a result of the contaminated blood supply. The team found inspiration in this to realize the dream that Tim had shared on that walk in 2011. 

    Transforming the Dream into Reality

    Visitors to the new Artists Portal, located at the western end of the memorial, perched on the crest of a hill and tucked under towering native oak trees, will enjoy a beautiful view of the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Memorial Museum. The National AIDS Memorial and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus have worked together closely over the last year in the design, location, funding and labor to ensure this new feature honoring the national artists community became a reality.

    One of Tim’s early ideas was to include an aural component in this space.  An 8½-foot-tall Emperor Chime graces the space, a quiet sentinel until visitors ring the chime and speak a name or names of loved ones. I think visitors will find the resonance and harmony restorative and intuitive, just as the memorial cradles memory through the other senses.

    On December 1, prior to performing at the 25th annual World AIDS Day National Observance—open to the public, all are welcome—the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus will gather at the Artists Portal to formally dedicate the newest addition to the National AIDS Memorial. This project of love was inspired by the spirit of some of the most creative souls to walk beside us. The memorial has long stood as a space dedicated to heroes, for remembering those we loved, for honoring those who fought and survived, for reminding us of the force and resilience of community.

    The National AIDS Memorial is deeply appreciative to all who have supported this project, which will live on in perpetuity to honor all those lost and will tell the story of not only loss but also of incredible strength and compassion. The National AIDS Memorial would like to thank a few individuals for making this project a reality: Tim Seelig, Chris Verdugo, Don Ruthroff and K.C. Farrell.

    John Cunningham is the Executive Director of the National AIDS Memorial Grove. Tom Jensen, a digital consultant for Wells Fargo Virtual Channels Digital group, is a member of the organization’s Board of Directors.


    National AIDS Memorial Grove Campaign Donors

    The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus (SFGMC) has long dreamt of creating a lasting tribute to those we have lost to the AIDS pandemic. Now, thanks to the following generous donors, such a tribute is possible at the National AIDS Memorial Grove.

    SFGMC wishes to extend a special thank you to all those who have donated time and expertise in making the new Artists Portal possible. Financial contributions from the following individuals, LGBTQ choruses and allied organizations were instrumental in giving life to the memorial. Thank you!

    On World AIDS Day, December 1, the Artists Portal will be dedicated in memory of those singers who no longer stand on stage but whose voices still resound in our hearts.

    Cornerstone ($25,000+)
    Terrence Chan + Edward Sell

    Hero ($5,000+)
    Joseph Bondi
    Paul Saccone + Ryan Knight
    Justin Taylor

    Guardian ($2,500+)
    Jaime Caban + Rob Mitchell
    Stephen P. Hanten
    Steve Gallagher + Chris Thorne
    Gary Richards + Cecil Johnson

    Defender ($1,000+)
    Tiffany, Dan + Sadie Apczynski
    Sal Baglieri + Peter Cirincione
    Mike Bankert + John Tease
    Fred Baumer + Phillip Browning
    Dale Becherer + Cole P. Kinney
    Derek Blechinger + Andrew Conrad
    Jim Bohanon + Larry Fleck
    Them Bui + Jim Hill
    Tom Burch + Neil Austin
    Bruce Carpenter
    Joe Castrovinci
    Lloyd + Janet Cluff
    Rick Crane + Warwick Bentley
    Joe Czuberki
    Jay Davidson + Kevin O’Neill
    Bud Dillon
    Sean Dowdall + David Landis
    Jared + Peter Drake
    Dan England + Dr. Tim Seelig
    Adrian Fischer + Soo Choi
    John Foertsch
    Robbie Frederick + Andrew Marsh
    Steve Gallagher + Chris Thorne
    Jim Gibson
    Jason + Stephen Harpster Andersen
    Steven Huffines + Daniel McCurdy
    Cynthia + Jerry Johnston
    Louis Kelly
    Randy Laroche + David Laudon
    Dr. Jay Lalezari
    Stephen Luppino
    Cam McLoed + Jeff Damon
    Gary + David Mendelson Varela
    Keith Pepper + Ken Raith
    Curtis Ponzi
    Jamie Rawson
    Eddie Reynolds, Jr. + Herman Correa
    Gary Richards
    Bob Rufo
    Donald Ruthroff + Jonathan Kronn
    Mark Short
    Michael Tate + Simon O’Mahony
    Christopher Verdugo
    Gary Welch

    Partner ($500+)
    Andrew Lippa + Tom Regouski
    James McCrea + Gregory Jurin
    Marilyn Stewart
    Tracy Tuenge

    Friend ($1+)
    Richard Brabham
    Gerald Deighton
    Roseanne de Vries
    Susan Feder
    Paul Frantz
    Peter Franzi
    Jonathan Funk + John Arnold
    Barbara Hodgen
    William Hughes
    Dan Joraanstad + Robert Hermann
    Lynn Kormondy
    Jessica McMillan
    Mauricio Montano
    Scott Nelson
    Mike Oliver + Rodney Wade
    Michael Ring
    Pam Sammons
    Allan Treuter
    Terry + Lisa Viall
    Mike Volis
    Michael Wright + Brian Roby
    Kasi + Craig Zieminski

    LGBTQ Choruses
    ANNA Crusis Women’s Choir
    Asheville Gay Men’s Chorus
    Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus
    Boston Gay Men’s Chorus
    Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus
    Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus
    City of Festivals Men’s Chorus
    Coro Allegro
    Denver Gay Men’s Chorus
    Denver Women’s Chorus
    Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC
    Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles
    Golden Gate Men’s Chorus
    Heartland Men’s Chorus
    International Voices Houston
    Kansas City Women’s Chorus
    Knoxville Gay Men’s Chorus
    LanSINGout Gay Men’s Chorus
    Lesbian and Gay Chorus of SF
    Maine Gay Men’s Chorus
    Melbourne Gay and Lesbian Chorus
    Men’s Chorus of the Ozarks
    Mid America Freedom Band
    Modern Men Coachella Valley Men’s Chorus
    New York City Gay Men’s Chorus
    North Coast Men’s Chorus
    Oakland Gay Men’s Chorus
    One Voice Mixed LGBT Chorus MN
    Orlando Gay Chorus
    OurSong Atlanta
    Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus
    Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus
    Reveille Men’s Chorus
    River City Mixed Chorus
    Sacramento Gay Men’s Chorus
    San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band
    Seattle Men’s Chorus
    Seattle Women’s Chorus
    Silicon Valley Gay Men’s Chorus
    The Stonewall Chorale
    Turtle Creek Chorale
    Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus
    VOICES of Kentuckiana
    West Coast Singers
    Windy City Performing Arts
    The Women’s Chorus of Dallas

    Allied Organizations
    ACFEA Tour Consultants
    American Choral Directors Association
    Chorus America
    First Baptist Church Greenville SC
    GALA Choruses