Aids Memorial Quilt Essay, Research Paper
The AIDS Memorial Quilt The AIDS memorial quilt also known as the NAMES project is the largest on-going community art project in the world. Today the quilt is comprised of over 41,000 colorful panels in remembrance of someone who has been lost in the fight against AIDS. Each panel is three feet by six feet, the size of a human grave. The size of each panel is just one of the many testimonies to emotions of sorrow, anger, love and hope that go into the making of each panel. The mission of the AIDS memorial quilt is to help bring an end to AIDS through its set goals. These goals are to provide a creative means for remembrance and healing, illustrate the enormity of the AIDS epidemic, increase public awareness to the AIDS epidemic, assist with the prevention of HIV through education and to raise funds for AIDS service organizations within various communities. The idea to remember those who had lost their lives to started in the summer of 1987. A small group of strangers gathered in San Francisco to document the lives they feared that would be forgotten by history. Their goal was to create a memorial for those who had dies of AIDS and to thereby help other people understand the devastating impact of that the disease had had on society. The meeting in San Francisco of devoted friends and lovers was the foundation of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial. This was just the beginning of an idea that would grow to include the whole world in its efforts to preserve the names and memory of those who had died of AIDS. The idea for a quilt started in 1985 with a long-time gay rights activist named Cleve Jones. After the assassinations of two San Francisco officials who were gay, Jones helped organize the annual candlelight march honoring these two men. While planning the march, it was brought to his attention that the number of AIDS deaths in San Francisco had surpassed the 1000 mark. He asked that along with the usual candles, each person write the name of their friends and loved ones that had died of AIDS on a placard. At the end of the march, Jones and others began taping the placard to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. While standing back looking at the wall, Jones saw that all the placards looked like a patchwork quilt. The NAMES Project Foundation coordinates and displays the quilt, which has become a powerful visual reminder of the AIDS epidemic. Jones wanted the quilt to be a larger memorial than the placards on the Federal Building, but he had no idea the extend that the quilt would go to when he started the project. He made the first panel in memory of Marvin Feldman, a friend of his. In 1987, he teamed up with several other people to formally organize the NAMES Project Foundation. The response given to the quilt was immediate and people from the most affected cities in that were the most affected by AIDS sent panels to the workshop in San Francisco so that their family, friends and lovers could also be remembered. Others began to send donations in the form of money and equipment such as sewing machines that were desperately needed. The most responsive people were lesbian, gay and bisexual people living in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. The quilt began to become better known and as more people learned of the project, more people got involved. Only two years after the idea of the quilt sparked in Cleve Jones’s head, the NAMES Project had its first showing at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It was shown at the same time as the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Half a million people visited the 1,920 panels that were displayed there that weekend. This response led the NAMES organizers to take the quilt on a four-month national tour that covered twenty cities in 1988. The tour raised $500,000, which was donated to hundreds of AIDS service organizations in various communities. In each city, different volunteer crews helped out the small seven-person team that traveled with the quilt from city to city. Panels from people wanting their loved ones to be remembered were collected in each city and added to the quilt. At the end of the tour, the quilt was once again displayed in Washington, D.C. This time the quilt was comprised of 8,288 panels, triple the size that had started the tour. During the exhibition, celebrities, politicians, families, lovers and friends read out loud the names of those represented by the quilt panels. This tradition continues today at almost every quilt display.The impact of the quilt was worldwide after it was shown in various cities in the world on the first World AIDS Day and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in February of 1989. A documentary, “Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt,” based on the AIDS quilt won an academy award for best feature length documentary film of 1989. After another North American tour that started in March of 1989, it was displayed in its entirety in Washington, D.C. There were 10,088 panels exhibited in this showing during its fourth year in existence.Throughout the early ’90s, the quilt began to grow in popularity and size. In 1990 it was made up of 12,200 panels and in 1991 that amount had jumped to 14,900 panels. When it was shown in Washington, D.C. for the fourth time in 1992, the panels had amounted to 20,064 and were shown at the Washington Monument where more than 600,000 people came to visit the quilt. It included panels from every state in the United States as well as panels from twenty-eight countries. It was entitled “International Display” in honor of the global span of the panels.
In January of 1993, the NAMES Project was invited to march in the Presidential Inaugural Parade for President Clinton. Over 200 volunteers and others carried the quilt panels down Pennsylvania Avenue in the parade. By the end of the year the panel count was around 27,200. The following year, the NAMES Foundation began the National High School Quilt Program, which was a project dedicated to enhancing HIV prevention curriculum in high school classrooms around the country.The NAMES project began an effort called the AIDS Memorial Quilt Archive to preserve the memories within each panel in 1994. This foundation professionally photographs the panels in order to preserve them for future generations. Their goal is to create a permanent visual record of one of the most compelling symbols of the images and stories of the AIDS epidemic. Each panel depicts the love and loss that the family, friend or lover who created the panel felt when they lost their loved one. Letter and photos that accompany the panels document the effect of the AIDS epidemic on those who are left behind. The AIDS Memorial Quilt Archive is a way to ensure that the quilt and the people that it represents will not be forgotten by future generations.As the number of panels continues to grow, the NAMES project is reaching into different communities to bring education on HIV and AIDS to different communities. The National Interfaith Program brings sections of the quilt to churches, synagogues and other places of worship and faith communities all over the country. Sections of the quilt have been shown at the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, in Saks Fifth Avenue stores, high schools and at the fifth display in Washington, D.C. At this showing, there were more than 40,000 panels that covered the area from the National Mall to the Washington Monument. The displays in Washington, D.C. in October are the only times that the quilt has been displayed in its entirety. There are currently 53 NAMES Project chapters in the United States and 38 affiliate branches around the world. There have been around 12,542,000 people who have visited the quilt, which is comprised of over 42,016 panels. The 80,466 names on the quilt represent twenty-one percent of all the AIDS deaths in the United States. If all of these panels were laid out, they would cover sixteen football fields without providing walkways (with walkways they would over 25 football fields). The quilt weighs about 53 tons and would reach 48.75 miles if all the panels were laid out end to end. Countries all over the world participate and there are panels for many famous people such as Arthur Ashe, a tennis player and Eazy E, a rap artist who have been remembered after their death from AIDS. The AIDS Memorial Quilt is the largest example of a community art project in the world. Many culture have traditions based in fabric arts. The quilt is based on the American tradition in which neighbors and relatives would gather to sew old scraps of clothing together to make blankets. The quilts made were while telling stories, sharing gossip and enjoying each other’s company. The final products provided warmth and comfort as the AIDS quilt provides comfort in a time of grieving over the loss of loved ones. The AIDS quilt is a response to contemporary issues and has redefined the art of quilt making. A panelmaker is someone who has made a panel for the AIDS Memorial Quilt. It can be anyone whether they are old or young, rich or poor, gay, straight or bisexual. The diversity of the individuals who have made panels for the quilt is as diverse as those who have lost their lives in the AIDS epidemic. Anyone can make a panel and have it become a part of the quilt through a few simple steps. First you need to design a panel that includes the name of a friend or loved one that you would like to remember. You can include additional information about the person, but each panel should be limited to only one individual. Next choose the materials that you would like to use keeping in mind that the quilt will be folded and unfolded many times so it must be durable. Sewing things to the panel is better than gluing and a strong material should be used. A variety of materials have been used on panels. Things like Barbie dolls, bubble-wrap, champagne glasses, cremation ashes, feather boas, condoms, Legos, love letters and wedding rings are just a few of the items on the quilt. Send the quilt with a letter about the person you are remembering, a donation (if possible) and a panelmaker information card. You can submit your panels by sending it to the NAMES Foundation or by bringing it to the Visitor’s Center and Panelmaking Workshop in San Francisco’s Castro District. You can also bring a panel to one of the NAMES chapters of even to a quilt display. Your panel will be carefully logged and examined and minor repairs may be made to unsure it will be durable. The panels are then sorted by region and when eight panels from the same region are collected, they are sewn together to form a twelve foot square. These are the building blocks of the quilt. The building blocks are given a number so that they can be easily tracked and you can request that they be shown at a specific display.