Jenny Holzer, Sanford Biggers, and Others Are Vying to Design a Pulse Nightclub Memorial Museum. But a New Group Is Opposing It

A group of survivors, families of victims, and queer activists say the museum is an effort to “monetize the tragedy."

A view of the Pulse Nightclub sign on June 21, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Gerardo Mora/Getty Images.
A view of the Pulse Nightclub sign on June 21, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Gerardo Mora/Getty Images.

The owners of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, site of one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history, announced plans to build a new memorial and private museum honoring the victims of the massacre last year. And several high-profile artists and architects, including Jenny Holzer, Sanford Biggers, Studio Drift, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, have since submitted proposals for the design.

But the decision doesn’t sit well with everyone. A new group called the Community Coalition Against a Pulse Museum has formed in opposition to the proposed museum and the organization behind it. The group accuses the onePulse Foundation, a non-profit formed by Pulse nightclub owner Barbara Poma, of seeking to “monetize the tragedy in order to pay salaries and raise exorbitant sums for a project not everyone wants.”

The group wants the current nightclub torn down and suggests that any memorial to the tragedy be built on public property with Orlando city funding. “Put people first,” the coalition’s mission statement reads. “We care more about our survivors than educating tourists.”

“We respect the thoughts and opinions of everyone in the community who was affected by this tragic event and are taking them all into consideration on how we move forward,” a representative from onePulse said in a statement to the Associated Press.

Barbara Poma, owner of Pulse nightclub, delivers remarks one year after the massacre in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2017. Photo: Frank Weber / AFP / Getty Images.

Barbara Poma, owner of Pulse nightclub, delivers remarks one year after the massacre in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Frank Weber / AFP / Getty Images.

onePulse’s proposed plan would turn the Pulse nightclub into a permanent memorial, while a museum would be built a few blocks away. Both are currently scheduled to open in 2022. 

In July, the Orlando Sentinel published a report detailing the finances behind the project, revealing that onePulse planned to raise $40 million for design and construction. The organization will need $2 million to pay the yearly salaries of 90 employees at both the memorial and museum, including $150,000 for Poma’s own annual salary. It anticipates drawing more than 300,000 visitors a year, each of whom will be charged an admission fee.

“onePULSE Foundation is following the model of other museums and memorials such as those in Oklahoma City and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City,” a representative from the organization told artnet News in a statement. “As with those sites, the memorial will be free, while the museum will charge a modest admission, which will go to keep up the museum and the memories of those it honors.” 

“The museum will tell the story of the victims, the tragedy, the community’s response, and provide a world-class education center to learn from the lessons of hate so they aren’t repeated,” the statement continues. “Without a museum, there is no place to tell the story for future generations and we risk the tragedy being erased entirely over time.”

Law enforcement officials investigate at the Pulse gay nightclub where Omar Mateen allegedly killed at least 50 people on June 13, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Law enforcement officials investigate at the Pulse gay nightclub where Omar Mateen allegedly killed at least 50 people on June 13, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Christine Leinonen, a mother of one of the victims and a founding member of the coalition opposing the museum, launched a petition on Change.org urging the Orlando City Council to halt onePulse Foundation’s proposed museum, which she characterizes as a “for profit destination” that would “charge admission like an Amusement attraction.” 

“This ‘Memorial’ would be opened to capitalize on the lives lost,” Leinonen’s petition reads. “A place where you can buy T-shirts, hats, souvenirs, and memorabilia, and walk through and experience the blood shed first hand. For profit.” To date, 44,462 people have signed the petition. 

Below, see the six teams that onePulse has short-listed from its international design competition:

Coldefy & Associés with RDAI, Xavier Veilhan, dUCKS scéno, Agence TER, and Laila Farah

Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rene Gonzalez Architects with Raymond Jungles, Inc.

heneghan peng architects, Gustafson Porter + Bowman, and Sven Anderson & Pentagram

MASS Design Group, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Sasaki, Sanford Biggers, Richard Blanco, and Porsha Olayiwola

MVRDV, Grant Associates, GSM Project and Studio Drift

Studio Libeskind with Claude Cormier + Associés, Thinc, and Jenny Holzer.


Follow artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.

Share

Article topics