Quilting a Monumental Memorial

School Arts, January 1997 | Go to article overview

Quilting a Monumental Memorial


The AIDS Memorial Quilt, displayed in its entirety last October 1996, on the National Mall in Washington, DC, bears the names of more than 70,000 people who have died from AIDS. Approximately, 45,000 panels cover an area 4,000, (1,219.2 m) long and 400' (122 m) wide. With almost twenty-six miles of walkways, the Quilt is about twenty-two acres or the size of thirty football fields.

Through its monumental size and weight - forty-four tons of fabric - the Quilt illustrates the enormity of the AIDS epidemic, although it represents only 11 percent of all US AIDS deaths. Through its visual and emotional impact, it provides a creative means for remembrance and healing. Through its chronology of dates, it records the history of life and death in this time of plague and advocates for a reasoned and humane response to the epidemic.

Creating the Concept The idea for the AIDS Memorial Quilt came to gay rights activist Cleve Jones after a 1985, march during which participants wrote down on cards the names of loved ones who had died of AIDS. When the cards were taped to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building, they resembled a patchwork pattern. A year later, Jones made the first panel for the Names Project. In October 1987, the first 1,920 panels were displayed in Washington, DC.

As a memorial, the Quilt is unique because it is created not by one artist but by thousands of people all over the world. …

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