There are plenty of art, historical and science museums. But there is just one AIDS museum in the whole world, and it is here in Wilton Manors.
That’s according to its founder, Steve Stagon, who also runs an AIDS support group called Pozitive Attitudes. “Seventy-five million people have been infected, 38 million people have died, and 34 million are living with it,” he says. “Yet nowhere in the world was anybody telling the story in one spot, and I thought the story needed told. There’s so much misinformation out there.”
South Florida is perhaps a particularly appropriate location for the World AIDS Museum and Educational Center because Miami-Dade and Broward counties are numbers one and two, respectively, for new infections in the United States. The museum will celebrate its grand opening on Tuesday, Dec. 2 (it officially opened in May), with a benefit gala at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts honoring 50 healthcare professionals dedicated to helping those with HIV/AIDS. Planners chose the date because it is the day after World AIDS Day.
The event will begin with a VIP cocktail reception at 6 p.m. at the new Huizenga Pavilion. A concert by the Florida Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sebrina Alfonso, will follow in the Amaturo Theater. VIP tickets, which include the reception and premier concert seating, are $150. Admission to the concert only ranges from $40 to $60.
Selections will include Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and medleys from Bernstein’s West Side Story, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Guest artist tenor Davron Monroe will perform songs including Bring Him Home, I Dreamed the Dream and Old Man River.
“This concert is a celebration,” Alfonso says. “We’re preparing music that is uplifting and appeals to everyone.”
Museum director Ed Sparan adds: “The museum chronicles the history of AIDS, beginning in 1908, and how it has changed. But it’s not a sad place. It’s an emotional place.”
– Jana Soeldner Danger
To be placed on the invitation list call 954-390-0550. For more information visit worldaidsmuseum.com.