Text-based artist Jenny Holzer will design a piece for New York City’s new AIDS Memorial. Already known in the community for her permanent work at 7 World Trade Center, Holzer plans to use lines from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” to create a spiraling pattern on stones within the site.
The announcement comes on the eve of construction on the park, which will also feature a fountain, a steel canopy sculpture, and granite benches for quiet reflection. While this is not the first AIDS memorial in the city, it will be the most prominent, built in the West Village neighborhood near the former site of St. Vincent’s Hospital, a space commonly referred to as “ground zero” of the New York City AIDS crisis.
"Whitman's message of hope, of dignity in the face of death, of the glories of an embodied life, and of transcendence in the face of oppressiveness and tragedy, spoke to the requirements of the memorial and universalized them," she wrote in a statement.
Holzer’s note went on to explain the poet’s connection to the city, "Whitman was also a proud New Yorker, a poet of the people threaded through his city, a man whose work includes paeans to the metropolis that he thought represented the greatest realization of human diversity."
The completed memorial is expected to open on World AIDS Day in December of this year, pending approval by the NYC Public Design Commission. If you’d like to donate to the project, visit nycaidsmemorial.org.
Caroline Hallemann is an assistant digital editor at Travel + Leisure. You can find her on Twitter at @challemann.