Donor tiles removed during renovations to be replaced by summer
By Benny Cartwright
Following our reporting in the Sept. 2023 issue about the San Diego LGBT Community Center’s removal of donor recognition tiles that had been on display in The Center’s main lobby for nearly 20 years, the organization has announced that it will soon replace the tiles.
“We heard feedback from some community members who were connected to the tiles that they were concerned about the relocation of the tiles to the digital display in The Center’s auditorium,” said The Center’s Senior Director of Development Ian Johnson. “The Center has now decided to replace all the donor tiles that were removed with new tiles.”
The Center, which moved into its current main location in 1999, performed an extensive remodel of its ground floor while the building was closed to the public during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the renovations, the donor recognition tiles, many of which had adorned the lobby walls since the early 2000s, were all destroyed.
According to Johnson, 187 tiles were on the original wall before the renovations. Photos were taken of all the tiles before their removal and in order to continue to honor the memory of the plaques, a digital display was created that showed images of the former plaques on the wall of the building’s auditorium during all major events.
“We heard feedback from some in the community that the digital display we implemented did not capture the impact of the original tile display,” Johnson said. “In response to that feedback, we put together a plan to explore options beyond the digital display of tiles in the auditorium.”
To replace the tiles, The Center has plans to install the new tiles outside the building on their front patio, among the capital campaign bricks from 1999 and the Memorial Garden to right of the main entrance (as you face the building).
“We feel that this highly visible placement will honor those remembered in the tiles and will have a strong impact on people visiting The Center,” Johnson said.
While the tiles will not be re-created in the exact same style as the originals, they will have a similar look and feel, and be printed with the exact wording as before. There will be no charge to the original donors and all tiles will be replaced unless a donor specifically requests that it not be.
Center officials said they shared the news with many of the donors who contributed to the original tile program and said the response has been positive.
“The supporters whom we have been able to contact are thrilled with the relocation,” Johnson said. “Some have instructed us that a replacement tile is not necessary, and others are excited to see them back up. Our donors who want their tile replaced have been happy to hear this news.”
Johnson also shared the responsibility that his organization has to honor the community’s history while meeting the current needs of the community.
“Both are part of building trust with our community; trust that we will not forget our past and trust that we will be here as a gathering place and as a place where people can be their full, authentic selves while accessing services,” he said.
“In creating a larger and more welcoming lobby filled with community art and accessible services, as well as more meeting spaces, we answered the requests of thousands of community members who participated in our Community Needs Assessment and our Town Halls,” Johnson continued. “In placing the tiles along the patio wall near the other memorial pieces, we are honoring our history as well as preserving the legacy of those who helped to make us what we are today.”
Johnson said that the San Diego LGBT Community Center should be a place where every person feels and knows that they belong.
“Replacing these tiles and having them be a part of that welcoming experience means so much to our tile donors who were early supporters of The Center,” Johnson said. “We can’t wait to see the results later this year.”
The project is expected to be completed this summer.
–Benny Cartwright is a longtime activist and community leader. Reach him at [email protected]. Follow him on Instagram @BennyC80.
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