Long-term survivors of HIV are about to get a permanent tribute to their strength and resilience, thanks to a mural being commissioned by Openhouse, a housing nonprofit for LGBTQ seniors based in San Francisco, for the community center it is currently in the process of building.
Openhouse put out a call for artists on its blog late last month. The mural is being timed to be completed for the grand opening of the community center in September, which coincides with National HIV & Aging Awareness Day.
According to Charles Renfroe, the project manager, the mural is the first of its kind. When trying to think of a comparable memorial, Renfroe stated in a recent press release, “In 2004, there were very unique ‘survivor’s knots’ installed on roadways in New York and Connecticut by artist and long-term survivor Steed Taylor, but those tattoo-inspired murals gradually faded and are gone now.”
Openhouse was founded in 1998 to provide LGBTQ senior citizens with affordable housing options. With the organization estimating that as much as 30 percent of its local target population is HIV-positive, it is uniquely suited to recognize long-term survivors.
In efforts to ensure that they (and their fellow survivors from around the world) are represented by someone who understands their specific concerns and anxieties, a review board was made up of 10 long-term survivors, including Let’s Kick ASS: AIDS Survivor Syndrome founder, Tez Anderson. The board is only considering artists living with or affected by HIV to create the mural.
“Hosting the Living Wall Tribute fits right in with our mission to help LGBTQ seniors and older adults overcome the unique challenges they face as they age by providing housing, direct services and community building programs,” stated Openhouse’s executive director, Karyn Skultety, in the same press release.
Funded by $250,000 worth of capital from pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences, the installation will be located at the community center’s “physical and emotional center," as Renfroe described it to POZ magazine.
To be located in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood, the center will feature at least 79 affordable housing units for people age 62 and older. Many of its future residents will be long-term HIV survivors themselves.
“This tribute,” Skultety said, “will demonstrate that [long-term survivors] are seen, appreciated, and celebrated.”