Hartford, CT
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Columbus Green Aids Memorial Connecticut sinds 1 December 2025
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CT AIDS Memorial proposed for Hartford park, ‘an everlasting tribute’ to activist and those lost
A public AIDS memorial to honor both those affected by the disease and the late activist Shawn Lang moved a step closer toward finding a home in Hartford this week.

Organizers hope to find a location in downtown Hartford, where candlelit AIDS vigils were once held regularly. The space is envisioned as having a place to sit and reflect on those who have died of AIDS and the thousands of people in the Hartford area who are living with it and as a means to reinvigorate the vigils, with marches beginning at the memorial.

The memorial has been in the works for over a year but came a step closer to reality this week when Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin proposed Columbus Green near Bushnell Park as a location, and the Hartford City Council took up the resolution at its meeting Monday night. The proposal for the memorial was referred by the city council to its Committee of the Whole.If approved for Columbus Park, the memorial will replace the now-empty pedestal area where the statue of Christopher Columbus was placed on Columbus Green in 1926 before it was removed in 2020. Other locations for the memorial have also been under consideration.

The memorial will honor the memory of those lost to AIDS and also pay tribute to Shawn Lang, a local activist and former deputy director of AIDS Connecticut who died in 2021. Among those who marked Lang’s passing was Gov. Ned Lamont, who said, “She dedicated her life toward giving a voice for the underrepresented and those in marginalized communities, and I am confident that generations to come will benefit from her advocacy.” U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy called Lang a mentor. Shawn Lang, deputy director of AIDS Connecticut was an activist on issues impacting battered women, LGBTQ+ people, homelessness and HIV/AIDS.

Bronin’s resolution states that “the Connecticut AIDS Memorial will be an everlasting tribute to those who have died and are suffering from AIDS-related illnesses. Additionally, it will honor the advocates, allies and collaborators who advanced policies to assist and uplift those impacted by this global epidemic. The memorial will stand as a pledge to continue addressing health crises with unbiased policies. It will further be a reminder of the role the AIDS crisis played in elevating the urgency to challenge racism, sexism, heterosexism, homophobia and stigmatization based on addictions, sexuality and poverty.”

The Shawn Lang Memorial Task Force was formed to bring the memorial into being and has been working on the project since shortly after her death. A call for artists to design the AIDS memorial was issued last month and the deadline for submissions is Sept. 30. Fundraising is underway, including $50,000 from the Greater Hartford Arts Council.
In its call for artists, the Arts Council suggests that “this public art should serve as motivation for the justice work ahead. It will be a piece that encourages our souls to be stirred as we step into the arena and into the complex work of confronting the racial/social/political inequities in CT. It is public art for justice.”

A separate task force, unrelated to the one creating the AIDS memorial, has been involved with finding an appropriate replacement for the Columbus statue, which was located on Columbus Green between Lafayette Street and Washington Street.

Several city residents, as well as the heads of organizations involved with the memorial, spoke at the public comments meeting held before the city council meeting on Aug. 14 via Zoom.

Danielle Warren-Dias, director of family support for the Connecticut Children’s and UConn Health’s Pediatric, Youth and Family HIV Program said she has worked in the HIV/AIDS arena for over 30 years. Speaking of family members and others who had died of AIDS, she asked the council to “give them a poetic voice, a voice they could not have with such a stigmatized disease.”

John Merz of Advancing CT Together, the fiduciary for the memorial, noted that similar memorials exist around the country but also that this one had a strong local inspiration in Lang. Merz said the location had not yet been confirmed but that he hoped for the statue to be visible from the State Capitol “where much of our lobbying and rallies are held.”

Matt Blinstrubus of Equality Connecticut, part of a coalition of organizations that has been advocating for the AIDS memorial, said “Our state deserves a permanent memorial in the heart of our capital city to remember those in our Connecticut family who were lost to this disease. This monument will also be a potent reminder that HIV/AIDS remains a public health threat in Connecticut and that our struggle to end this epidemic continues to this day.”

Speaking to the Courant on Thursday morning, Merz said that the council meeting was a big step in making the memorial happen. “This is the first time the city has heard of it,” he said. “It’s new to them. The mayor’s resolution was the first formal notice of this.”

The Shawn Lang Memorial Task Force, however, has been meeting biweekly for the past 18 months, planning the project. “We originally thought the memorial could be on the grounds of the Legislative Office Building, but we learned that could be a more difficult journey to walk, so we began conversations about having it on city property.”
Merz said the call for artists has been compromised by the lack of a certain location for the memorial. “We have to ask for concepts without being able to say exactly what the spot will be. The artists want to know the dimensions of the area, whether there’s grass there.”

The Columbus Park location would be ideal for the memorial, Merz said. “We want the memorial to be close to the Capitol because for 14 years Shawn would do AIDS Awareness Days there. This will not be a statue of Shawn — she would never want that — but it is in her honor, and we want to honor the spirit of her work. She was a proponent not just of those with HIV/AIDS but all disenfranchised people. “This is not just about her but for her. We thought, ‘Let’s do this with the energy of Shawn Lang.’ “

Photo © Marc-Yves Regis I Hartford Courant
Shawn Lang, deputy director of AIDS Connecticut photographed Nov. 22 at her Hartford headquarters.

18 Augustus 2023
Christopher Arnott, Hartford, CT