From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, often
abbreviated to AIDS Memorial Quilt, is an enormous
quilt made as a memorial to and
celebration of the lives of people who have died of AIDS-related causes. Weighing an estimated 54
tons, it is the largest piece of community folk art in
the world as of 2009.
The idea for the NAMES Project Memorial Quilt was conceived in
1985 by AIDS activist Cleve Jones during the candlelight march,
in remembrance of the 1978 assassinations of San Francisco
Milk and Mayor George Moscone. For the march, Jones had
people write the names of loved ones that were lost to AIDS-related
causes on signs that would be taped to the San Francisco Federal
Building. All the signs taped to the building looked like an
enormous patchwork quilt to Jones, and he was inspired. It
officially started in 1987 in San Francisco by Jones, Mike Smith, and
volunteers Larkin Mayo and Gary Yuschalk. At that time many people
who died of AIDS-related causes did not receive funerals, due to
both the social stigma of AIDS felt by surviving family members and
the outright refusal by many funeral homes and cemeteries to handle
the deceased's remains. Lacking
a memorial service or grave site, The Quilt was often the only
opportunity survivors had to remember and celebrate their loved
ones' lives. The Quilt was last displayed in full on The Mall in Washington, D.C., in 1996.
The Quilt is a memorial to and celebration of the lives of
people lost to the AIDS pandemic. Each panel is 3' by 6',
approximately the size of the average grave; this connects the
ideas of AIDS and death more closely, even though only about 20% of
the people lost to AIDS related causes are represented. The
Quilt is still maintained and displayed by The NAMES Project
In observance of National HIV-Testing Day in June 2004 the 1,000
newest blocks were displayed by the Foundation on the
Ellipse in Washington, D.C. The
largest display of The Quilt since it was last displayed in its
entirety in October 1996, the 1,000 blocks displayed consisted of
every panel submitted at or after the 1996 display.
The NAMES Project Foundation is now headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, and has 21 chapters in
the United States and more than 40 affiliate organizations
world-wide. The AIDS Memorial Quilt itself is also warehoused in
Atlanta when not being displayed, and continues to grow, currently
consisting of more than 46,000 individual memorial panels (over
91,000 people) and weighing an estimated 54 tons.
Goal and Achievement
The goal of the Quilt is to bring awareness to how massive the
AIDS pandemic really is, and to bring support and healing to those
affected by it. Another goal is to raise funds for community based
AIDS service organizations
(ASO's), to increase their funding for AIDS prevention and
education. As of 1996, more than $1.7 million had already been
raised, and the effort continues to this day.
Typically very personalized, individual quilt panels are created
by the loved ones of someone who has died of AIDS-related causes.
Each 3' by 6' panel is the size of a human grave and the
panels are donated to The NAMES Project Foundation where they are
grouped with other similar panels and assembled into 12' by 12'
sections, called "blocks". These blocks can be seen at local
displays of The Quilt, typically containing 8 individual
Techniques used in making panels include patchwork, applique, embroidery, fabric painting, collage, spray paint and needlepoint.
Items and materials included in the panels:
- Fabrics, e.g. lace, suede, leather, mink,
taffeta, also Bubble Wrap and other
kinds of plastic and even metal.
- Decorative items like pearls, quartz crystals, rhinestones, sequins, feathers, buttons.
- Clothing, e.g. jeans, T-shirts, gloves, boots, hats, uniforms,
- Items of a personal nature, such as human hair, cremation ashes, wedding rings, merit badges and
other awards, car keys.
- Unusual items, e.g. stuffed animals, records, jockstraps, condoms and bowling balls.
Those who submit panels do not have to know the person, but they
do have to feel some sort of connection with them, that they want
people to recognize. For example, to memorialize Queen (band)
lead-singer Freddie Mercury, there were many panels
made, two of which were a solid white background with a blue and
black guitar, and "Freddy Mercury" written down the sides in black,
with the AIDS ribbon above his name, and a
purple silk with "Freddie Mercury," "Queen," and "1946-1991" in
silver applique, along with two pictures of Mercury with Queen.
Many panels were also made for actor, Rock Hudson. One of which consisted of a
navy blue background with silver "Rock Hudson" and stars, above a
rainbow with the word "Hollywood".
Other panels are made by loved ones, and then attached to make
one large block. Some are flamboyant and loud, whereas some are
more muted and simple; either way they all carry their own set of
- The NAMES Project was nominated for a Nobel Peace
Prize in 1989.
- The Quilt is the subject of the 1989 Peabody Award- and Academy
Award-winning documentary film Common Threads:
Stories from the Quilt, produced by Rob Epstein and
Couturié, and narrated by Dustin Hoffman.
- Songwriter Tom Brown wrote the song "Jonathan Wesley Oliver,
Jr." about the Quilt in 1988.
- In 1990 John
Corigliano's Symphony No. 1, inspired by The AIDS
Memorial Quilt, premiered in New York.
- Elegies for
Angels, Punks and Raging Queens, a song cycle developed in
the late 1980s with music by Janet Hood and lyrics and additional
text by Bill Russell, features songs and monologues inspired by The
- In 1992 The AIDS Quilt Songbook, a collection of new
musical works about the devastation of AIDS compiled by Lyric
baritone William Parker who solicited them from composers with whom
he had previously worked.
- Washington D.C.'s Different Drummers (DCDD) and the Lesbian and
Gay Chorus of Washington (LGCW) commissioned Quilt Panels
from composer Robert Maggio in 2001.
- The NAMES Project was the basis for the musical Quilt, A
- The AIDS Memorial Quilt was mentioned and shown during the
years that 'General Hospital' held their Nurses Ball (1994–2001)
raising money for AIDS research. And the character of Stone was
celebrated with a quilt in 1996.
- "Never to Be Forgotten" is a 54-minute video documenting the
Quilt's June, 1988 visit to Detroit, Michigan. This display was
part of a 20-city tour initiated after the 1987 Washington, DC
inaugural showing. The piece opens with footage of the opening
ceremony from the Washington DC display and then moves to coverage
of the Detroit event. Included are the opening and closing
ceremonies along with a look at the set up and take down of the
display. Volunteers share their feelings about participating in the
event and the viewer is given a close-up look at the individual
panels. <Peper Productions, POB 1242, Royal Oak, MI
The AIDS Memorial Quilt was the first of its kind as a
continually growing monument created piecemeal by thousands of
individuals, and today it constitutes the largest piece of
community folk art in the world. It
was seemingly inevitable that The Quilt be followed by a variety of
memorials and awareness projects, both AIDS-related and otherwise,
that have been inspired by and modeled after The AIDS Memorial
Quilt and its caretaker The NAMES Project Foundation. Examples of
- The K.I.A. Memorial Quilt,
created to remember those U.S. Armed Forces members killed in the
- Following the September 11,
2001 terrorist attacks on America a number of Quilt projects
were created memorializing the victims.
- Many other medical conditions also now have quilts, for
- There are also quilts for sub-sects of the AIDS Pandemic,
- "Virtual" AIDS Memorial Quilts have also been created:
"History." The AIDS Memorial Quilt. 23 Feb. 2009 <http://www.aidsquilt.org/history.htm>.
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Funeral Home in Twentieth Century America", page 198. Oxford
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"AIDS quilt unfurled in
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Freddy Mercury AIDS quilt panel. 23 Feb. 2009 <http://farm1.static.flickr.com/12/14423262_6f8bdb6ffc.jpg>.
Freddie Mercury AIDS Quilt panel. 23 Feb. 2009 <http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3050/2956301569_d56ef01dd2.jpg?v=0>.
Rock Hudson AIDS Quilt panel. 23 Feb. 2009 <http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2210/1572109441_ddfcd6e1bf.jpg?v=0>.
25 Feb. 2009.
Plant, Drew (2003-03-01). "Songbird with a Mission".
A&U Magazine. http://www.aumag.org/coverstory/july03cover.html. Retrieved
Rockwell, John (1990-03-18). "Review/Music; Contemporary
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"William Parker, Baritone,
Dies; Specialist in Art Songs Was 49". The New York Times.
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McKinley, Jesse (2007-01-31). "Fight Over Quilt Reflects
Changing Times in Battle Against AIDS". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9C01E2DE153FF932A05752C0A9619C8B63. Retrieved