Posted 2:43 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022
Panels honoring those lost to AIDS returning to UW-La Crosse
Sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt are returning to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse after it debuted on campus 27 years ago. And you can have input into which sections of the memorial will return.
The UWL Art Gallery and National AIDS Memorial are partnering to bring six Quilt sections as part of ArtsFest 2023, the annual spring campus festival formerly called Creative Imperatives. This year’s theme “Beautiful Remedies for Today” will showcase the role of the arts in health and healing.
In 1995, around 130 3-foot by 6-foot panels were displayed in the Mitchell Hall Fieldhouse. This time, the Quilt panels will be displayed in the University Art Gallery from Feb. 27-April 10. Admission is free to the public.
The Gallery is working with the National AIDS Memorial to help select the Quilt panels displayed with a goal of featuring panels memorializing friends and loved ones from the region who were lost to AIDS. The panels commemorate more than 700,000 U.S. lives lost to HIV/AIDS since the first cases were reported 40 years ago. Those interested in submitting suggestions for panels should contact Sierra Rooney.
Today, HIV is on the rise, particularly among young people, communities of color and in southern states. Quilt displays are used to raise greater awareness about the story of AIDS, and prevention, treatments and resources available.
“The issues our nation has faced in the past two years — a raging pandemic with hundreds of thousands of lives lost, social injustice, health inequity, stigma, bigotry and fear — are also the issues faced throughout four decades of the AIDS pandemic,” says John Cunningham, CEO of the National AIDS Memorial. “The Quilt is a powerful teaching tool that shares the story of HIV/AIDS, the lives lost, and the hope, healing, activism and remembrance that it inspires.”
The Quilt was created nearly 35 years ago during the darkest days of the AIDS pandemic by gay rights activist Cleve Jones. While planning a march in 1985, Jones was devastated by the thousands of lives lost to AIDS in San Francisco and asked each of his fellow marchers to write on placards the names of friends and loved ones who had died.
Jones and others stood on ladders taping the placards to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. The wall of names looked like a patchwork quilt. Inspired by this sight, Jones and friends made plans for a larger memorial.
In 1987, a group of strangers began gathering in a San Francisco storefront to document the lives they feared history would neglect. Their goal was to create a memorial for those who had died of AIDS, and to thereby help people understand the devastating impact of the disease.
This served as the foundation of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and later that year, nearly 2,000 of its panels were displayed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Since, the Quilt has grown to more than 50,000 panels, with more than 110,000 names stitched within its fabric. It weighs 54 tons, stretches more than 50 miles in length, and is the largest community-arts project in the world.
The Quilt is now part of the National AIDS Memorial, which oversees its preservation, care, storytelling programs and community displays. View the Quilt in its entirety and search for names on the Quilt.