West Side residents will work again this upcoming weekend on an AIDS awareness mural that’s part of a new memorial garden.

The garden, at the northeast corner of Chicago and Mayfield, will honor longtime activists Ed Bailey and Leola Spann.

Austin already has six community gardens and one memorial park, but Malcolm Crawford, executive director of the Austin African American Business Networking Association, said there’s a need for more. He said Spann and Bailey, both now deceased, deserve to be honored for the work they did to improve Austin.

Compared to other Chicago neighborhoods, Crawford said Austin has little art, and that needs to change-the memorial garden and mural will help remind people of the importance of art.

“We’re hoping that it will spark more positive activity in the community,” said Stacia Crawford, executive director of The Sankofa Cultural Arts and Business Center, 5820 W. Chicago, and Malcolm’s wife.

The purpose of the mural-titled “Austin Is Doing Something”- Stacia said is, “to provide visual interest, help beautify the neighborhood and give people a sense of ownership in this project. We took the letters from the word AIDS, and instead of it having a negative connotation, we wanted to bring about a positive connotation.”

The mural has been a collaborative effort with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. Johnathon Briggs, the foundation’s vice president of communications, said the mural was inspired by last year’s city-wide campaign: “With Me Comes a Cure.”

The idea for the mural came from Austin residents, as well as other Chicago residents, and it was announced in May 2008 at an event commemorating HIV Vaccine Awareness Day.

“The idea for the AIDS mural was to express a sense of community, pride, family, history and provide awareness that there is a concern for HIV/AIDS,” said Carla Carr, an artist, muralist and educator who designed the mural.

Austin resident Shirley Fields, who lives north of the mural’s location, added that adults-and young adults specifically-don’t take AIDS as serious.”

“Personally, it’s important to me because I love all the youth in our community, and I feel like it’s making a statement and beautifying our community,” she said.

There will be two monuments for Spann and Bailey at the front of the park. The memorial garden will promote Chicago’s green efforts by featuring fresh vegetables. Benches will be placed there showing an outline of Southern states, representing the relationship between blacks in the city and blacks in the South.

Mary Peery, president of the Austin Green Team and Spann’s sister, said having a garden cuts down on violence and drug traffic because, “It beautifies the community and teach young people to value and appreciate where they live.”

The city of Chicago owns the land where the memorial garden will go, but Margaret Wyner, program director of Neighborspace, expects the property will eventually be acquired by her organization, which partners with local groups to acquire land in their communities.

The mural project will cost about $9,000. So far, $7,000 has been raised, and the AIDS Foundation is expecting to raise the rest from Austin organizations, local residents and church ministries.


To get involved

Volunteers will continue work on the mural Saturday, April 24 and Sunday, April 25 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, contact Johnathon Briggs at 312-334-0922 or jbriggs@aidschicago.org.