CHICAGO (WLS) — A Chicago man has made it his mission to recognize leaders and history makers in the LGBTQ+ community through an outdoor museum walk.
Walking along Halsted, bar hoppers may not realize they’re walking through an LGBTQ+ history lesson.
It’s called the Legacy Walk, a labor of love by one local man and his organization, lined by the iconic rainbow pylons in Chicago’s Northalsted neighborhood.
Installed in 1998, the pylons were Mayor Richard M. Daley’s way of commemorating the neighborhood once known as Boystown. But what residents and visitors may not realize is that it’s also a memorial, a history lesson and an outdoor museum.
“This is the largest collection of bronze memorials in one continuous installation known to exist,” said Victor Salvo, executive director of The Legacy Project.
The rainbow pylons have 40 bronze memorials which recognize famous LGBTQ+ historical figures.
“We decided to create the first outdoor museum that would actually commemorate, cast in bronze, the contributions and achievements of LGBTQ people to world history and culture, and now it exists as the only installation of its kind, and it happens to be right here in Chicago,” Salvo said.
The Legacy Project works to highlight and honor people in the LGBTQ+ community. The Legacy Walk debuted on National Coming Out Day 2012.
“I’ve dedicated my life to it, and gave up the rest of my career in order to do this,” Salvo sad. “I myself am a survivor of suicide when I was a kid, and I know what it’s like to grow up without any context or thoughts of importance or relevance, to live in a society where you traditionally hear nothing but condemning remarks.”
Salvo said he’s now fighting back with positivity and promoting the incredible stories of LGBTQ+ people who had even bigger hurdles to face when coming out wasn’t even an option decades ago.
Among those commemorated on the Legacy Walk are Jane Adams, known as the mother of social work; Lorraine Hansberry, author of “A Raisin in the Sun”; Bayard Rustin, who is primarily known for being the architect of the 1963 March on Washington at which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech; and scientist Alan Turing.
“This is a plaque that I actually sponsored,” Salvo said. “Alan Turing was actually really the inspiration for the creation of the Legacy Walk, Turing was the father of computer science and was responsible for solving the Nazi enigma code during World War II, which is really considered to be a strategic piece that had to be in place before D-Day could actually take place.”
Salvo said he hopes pedestrians can appreciate the Legacy Walk all year round, but especially for LGBTQ History Month.
“To me, it’s celebration. We have contributed so much to the world that it is a time to really reflect and to embrace the collective contributions that people like me, regardless of which slice of the rainbow they happen to occupy, have collectively contributed, to me it is the very definition of pride,” he said.
Two new plaques were dedicated to the Legacy Walk in October. Organizers rotate them out. Retired plaques will one day be housed in a planned visitor’s center.
The Legacy Walk also offers guided tours for students and adults to learn about the those people making LGBTQ history.