by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
The NAMES Project Foundation, the nonprofit organization that houses and continues to expand the AIDS Memorial Quilt, has announced that it will bring the Quilt to Washington, D.C., this summer to mark its 25th anniversary.
Now consisting of over 47,000 hand-sewn panels, The Quilt will be on display in D.C. for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the International AIDS Conference. The NAMES Project is calling for volunteers and sponsors to ensure the showing's success.
'The Quilt is a connector and catalyst, an ambassador and educator. Bringing every panel of the Quilt back to Washington, D.C., provides an amazing opportunity to share its power with a largely new audience, and in doing so place HIV/AIDS squarely back into the public conscience,' said Julie Rhoad, president of the NAMES Project Foundation.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt is, according to the NAMES Project, one of the world's most powerful symbols of the public's response to the AIDS epidemic. Deemed a National Treasure by an act of Congress, the Quilt now consists of more than 47,000 panels representing the lives of 94,000 individuals, sewn by more than 100,000 friends and family members. Currently weighing in at 54 tons, the Quilt remains a major force pushing for the end of AIDS.
The Quilt was conceived of by Cleve Jones and Mike Smith, and initiated with the help of volunteers Jack Caster, Ron Cordova, Joseph Durant, Larkin Mayo, Gert McMullin, and Gary Yuschalk. It began as a single 3-by-6-foot panel created in San Francisco in 1987.
Today, the Quilt is the largest piece of ongoing community art in the world. Its individually sewn panels come from every state and numerous countries. Sections are continuously on display around the world in schools, churches, community centers, businesses, and other institutional settings, all with the purpose of making the realities of HIV and AIDS real, human, and immediate. According to the NAMES Project, more than 15 million people to date have seen the Quilt, at tens of thousands of displays throughout the world.
During the 19th International AIDS Conference this summer, the Quilt will 'blanket' the national capital region, with sections displayed on the National Mall and in more than 40 additional venues throughout the D.C. area.
The Quilt will be a centerpiece of this year's Smithsonian Folklife Festival. 'Creativity and Crisis: Unfolding the AIDS Memorial Quilt' will be the first Festival program to focus exclusively on ways in which community craft and performance have helped educate people and have helped them cope with one of the most complex epidemics in history.
The NAMES Project Foundation is asking the public to come to Washington in June or July and volunteer, as help is needed for a wide variety of tasks in support of the event. Visit www.quilt2012.org to register as a volunteer or to donate. Discounted hotel rates are available with partnering hotels.
'Science has begun to articulate a new AIDS narrative that says if we test and treat enough people globally, the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic will change and we will see the beginning of the end of AIDS,' said Rhoad. 'It's time to re-double our efforts - join us as volunteers and sponsors and, together, let us call on the Quilt to do what it does best: affirm our humanity, make clear our connections to and responsibility for one another, and garner a new era of support and advocacy for the AIDS cause.'