Community invited to help finish mural on clinic wall

John Anderson | Dallas Red Foundation

Cedar Springs has been the heart of Dallas’ LGBTQ community for decades. Members of the community have always had a sense of pride in and even ownership of the area as a place that people from all walks of life can be themselves openly and can feel that sense of community that only comes with being accepted and respected.

One of the most important and impactful ways a location can transform from just a “place” to a place with an identity is through art. Despite being a cultural center for the LGBT community for so many years, there has, historically, been a lack of artistic expression on the Cedar Springs strip.

In 2018, that started to change.

The Mayor’s LGBT Task Force, headed by Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano, has been actively working on improvements to the quality of life and identity of the Cedar Springs area for several years. Arttitude, a Dallas-based nonprofit which serves to unite diverse communities together through various artistic endeavors with the goal of inciting positive change and equality, approached the task force about the possibility of installing rainbow crosswalks in the Cedar Springs area.

But with construction occurring in the crosswalks in the coming year, crosswalk decorations would not be an option for some time.

This is where I came in. I am a member of the Quality of Life Committee of the LGBT Task Force, and I engaged with Arttitude to see what other sorts of things they might be able to do in the community to increase the identity of the area. I suggested that they explore the idea of murals. Arttitude was very receptive to the idea and recognized the lasting and important impact that murals (especially community-driven murals) would add to the identity of the area.

After these conversations, the Cedar Springs Strip no longer seemed like a series of buildings with blank walls; it was a canvas, just waiting for members of the community to come together and express themselves and their ideas to be interpreted and appreciated for years to come.

Arttitude had launched a program called DMAP — the Dallas Mural Art Project — as a series of community-driven murals that would be planned through open listening sessions and then painted by Arttitude in conjunction with community volunteers. In 2018, we secured the Cedar Springs Tattoo shop wall for the Cedar Springs installation in this series and had several listening sessions. Painting on that mural will begin in 2019 and it will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

While this mural was being planned, the opportunity for another mural quickly emerged.

In comes Dallas Red Foundation, a Dallas-based nonprofit organization with mission to fund HIV and AIDS service organizations and provide education and awareness to the greater community about HIV- and AIDS-related subjects.

In the past, Dallas Red Foundation served more as a fundraising organization for other local HIV and AIDS service organizations. In 2018, the foundation introduced its first service project — REDucate — an educational program focused on providing HIV- and AIDS-related educational services.

The AIDS crisis of the 1980s and ’90s was devastating to the LGBTQ community, both here at home and around the world. As medical science advances and time progresses, REDucate recognizes that awareness means not only being aware of the current state of things, but also being cognizant of how far we have come. It also stresses that we should remember those who have been lost and focus not just on increasing awareness of statistics but also awareness that there is hope for a brighter future and a community that is still fighting for continued progress.

As a member of the REDucate Committee with Dallas Red Foundation, I recognized that there was an opportunity here to bring the organization together with Arttitude to make a powerful statement in the form of a mural on the strip. So we decided to create a mural to commemorate the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Officially called the “Dallas Red Foundation HIV/AIDS Commemorative Mural,” it was designed by muralist Lee Madrid of Arttitude after talking with community leaders and employees of Resource Center’s Nelson-Tebedo Clinic upon which the mural is painted. The mural offers a message of hope and community while acknowledging the HIV/AIDS crisis and the continued need for HIV/AIDS to be at the forefront of public attention.

The mural features four diverse hands coming together to create red heart shapes. The heart shapes are “selfie” areas that are perfect for photo opps.

References to the decline in deaths over time and the ever-increasing number of individuals living with HIV are incorporated between multicolored, geometric shapes.

The color choices are reminiscent of the quintessential rainbow motif common in LGBTQ art and culture. A large portion of the mural depicts silhouettes looking over sections of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, created as a memorial celebrating the lives of people who have died of AIDS-related causes.

The process of painting the mural has been slow due to the weather, but on Jan. 12, the community is invited to come and help finish the mural and take part in something that will increase the identity and culture of The Strip for many years to come.

My hope is that the efforts by Dallas Red Foundation and Arttitude to create these murals are just the beginning, and that we will see a spring of artistic expression in the area and a greater feeling that Oak Lawn is the place where we belong — where everyone belongs.

John Anderson is a member of the Mayor’s LGBT Task Force and is secretary of the Dallas Red Foundation.