Spring 2019 Executive Director’s Note

Tony Valenzuela


Rendering of STORIES: The AIDS Monument

Dear Friends,

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked as FAM’s Executive Director is When is the Monument going to be finished? Here’s an update on the progress so far.

STORIES: The AIDS Monument will be the very last section completed in the major renovation currently underway at West Hollywood Park. To be located along San Vicente Boulevard just north of the steps of West Hollywood library, the Monument will stand where the old red brick recreation center now sits. The park construction timeline provided to FAM by the City of West Hollywood has us breaking ground in summer or fall of 2020. A major Dedication event for STORIES: The AIDS Monument is planned for early to mid-2021. It’s important to note that delays are common with large scale construction projects. While we believe groundbreaking and construction of the Monument are on the horizon, unforeseen delays could push our Dedication slightly further out. I’ll continue to share progress about the Monument’s construction in future newsletters.

Last month at a STORIESTelling event we hosted at NeueHouse, a number of prominent industry leaders gathered to talk about the impact of HIV/AIDS on Hollywood from the early days of the epidemic to the present. The conversation about films, documentaries, and TV shows that featured AIDS storylines brought back powerful memories. In 1985, when I was in the 11th grade, I locked myself in my bedroom to watch An Early Frost, the first major film about AIDS to air on network television. Starring Aidan Quinn, the Emmy-winning film is about a closeted gay man who learns he has AIDS and decides to disclose his homosexuality and his illness to his family. It was terrifying and devastating to watch as a 16 year old. And yet, that movie was profoundly important to me as a closeted gay high school student. Although I had never met an openly gay person much less anyone with AIDS in suburban 1980’s San Diego, in that film I could see a version of my future life even if some of it seemed bleak. My family is Mexican and Italian, not anglo like the film’s protagonist, but I still identified with his plight. That’s the power of the arts, of film and TV. That’s the power of stories. It was, therefore, a great honor to have the co-writer of An Early Frost, Daniel Lipman, among the panelists. I was able to tell Mr. Lipman that his film gave me a roadmap to navigate my percolating gay identity in the midst of the AIDS epidemic when before it I had none.

I invite you to learn more about our Hollywood & AIDS panel conversation here which, in addition to Mr. Lipman, also featured Lee Daniels, Nevin Dolcefino, Brain Graden, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Howard Rosenman, and Bruce Vilanch.

Approximately one year out from the Monument’s unveiling, FAM will be introducing a series of community engagement programs to inspire, educate and involve the citizens of West Hollywood and Los Angeles with STORIES. You’ll be hearing much more about FAM’s future programming later this year.

With much gratitude,

Tony Valenzuela Executive Director