by SAGE LEEHEY
The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt is made up of more than 48,000 three foot by six foot panels and is 1.3 million square feet in size. The majority of these panels are made by family members or loved ones in memory of someone who lost their life to AIDS.
This project began in 1985 with its first panel created by Cleve Jones, a San Francisco gay rights activist, to commemorate his friend Martin Feldman. The project was formalized in 1987 and has grown tremendously since.
Today, you can search through the AIDS Quilt archive on its website to view photographs of each of the panels. The whole quilt has only been displayed five times in Washington D.C., with its last full viewing in 1996. Sections of the quilt can be seen at galleries and various locations throughout the country at any given time. The schedule can be seen on the website as well.
To view a portion of the quilt, the public can visit the Investment Gallery on the third floor of the Fitzgerald Student Services building—by the Cashier’s Office and Financial Aid office—at the University of Nevada, Reno. The display began on Nov. 13 and will continue until Dec. 13.
“That gallery is a walkthrough, so it lends itself really nicely to art objects that ask its viewers to have a meaningful encounter with it, but on the viewer’s terms,” said Paul Baker Prindle, director of Sheppard Contemporary and University Galleries. “It’s a space that lends itself to pass-by experiences. We wanted to use that space because it’s a place where people pick up checks, make payments, stand in line, and it’s a nice place to have some art enter your life.”
Prindle explained that having the quilt in that location also may bring more people to really think about the disease and how it has affected our world.
“The AIDS Quilt is something you can encounter in a number of different ways; as you wait, you can think about how it affects your life, someone you know, read the names, read the text,” Prindle said. “Because it’s a public space and it’s such a public issue that we all are thinking about, it’s a great space for it.”
According to the World Health Organization and UNAIDS, 35.3 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2012, 2.3 million people became newly infected and 1.6 million people died of AIDS-related causes in 2012. Prindle believes that this quilt is a strong piece of artwork because “it exemplifies the very best of what art can do in helping us respond to contemporary challenges” and can help people deal with this disease.
“I love the history and culture of quilting and how people come together to make it, so the idea of making a quilt in memory of someone is a really powerful healing experience,” Prindle said. “And when we see it, we can all come together in a collective healing and I think our community, our global community, needs some healing because of the insane amount of lost lives to AIDS.”