A large, rainbow-colored flag waves in front of a person speaking on stairs

Photo by Vernon Bryant, courtesy Dallas Morning News

It started with a picture in The Dallas Morning News: an empty patch of unruly grass covered by a sign that read YOUR DESIGN HERE. When Allen resident and landscape artist Cheryl Baez saw the ad, she immediately started brainstorming. The challenge was to create a monument that reflected the inclusivity of Dallas’ Oak Lawn neighborhood, which has been the heart of the city’s LGBTQ community since the 1970s. “They were singing my song,” Baez says. “I was familiar with Oak Lawn all my life and wanted to celebrate the ambience and character there.”

Baez’s winning design, Legacy of Love, is a 27-foot-tall obelisk topped with a sphere. She wanted to create a sense of unity by merging contrasting forms. Around 150 individual, organizational, and corporate donor names are engraved into the work, in some cases substituted with “In Memory of.” The Oak Lawn Committee, dedicated to improving the quality of life in the historic Oak Lawn neighborhood, placed the ad in the paper.

Committee member John Olson says they received about 30 applications when they put out the call in 2004. The submissions ranged from “scribbles on paper” to professional plans. Olson likens Baez’s sphere to a “disco ball.” Since its unveiling in 2006, Legacy of Love has been a safe haven for Dallasites. Over a thousand people headed to the monument to celebrate the Supreme Court legalizing marriage equality in 2015 (right). It was also a gathering spot after the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and the 2021 killing of Justin Thompson, a gay man, in Dallas.

Located at the intersection of Cedar Springs Road and Oak Lawn Avenue, Legacy of Love has been damaged by an occasional errant driver or ill-intentioned vandal over the years, but private funds allow the Oak Lawn Committee to repair and maintain the monument. This past year the group changed the three bands of white light at the top of the obelisk to LED that can be switched from various solid colors to multicolors depending on the occasion. “It was a desolate little triangle, a blank island that had no purpose,” Olson says. “Now it’s a symbol of diversity.” For more information, visit oaklawncommittee.org.

From the February 2023 issue

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