What is the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt? Why are “panels” made for adults and children who have died of HIV?
In 1987 what started out as a simple panel of fabric stitched for a best friend now covers a space larger than 30 football fields and contains over 94,000 names. Just like the quilts made locally in east Tennessee tell stories of family, history and values, the AIDS Memorial Quilt panels tell stories of someone whose life was cut short, what their contributions were, and how they wanted to be remembered. Each panel of the Quilt is of the same dimension, 3' x 6', symbolic in that it represents the dimensions of a gravesite.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt is one of the most powerful educational tools for HIV education. There is not an age group, race, income or education level, religion, profession, or sexual preference that is missing from all the panels. The Quilt and its panels teach us that HIV does not discriminate. It can infect anyone and does affect everyone.
Too often when death from HIV disease is spoken about it is done so with numbers and statistics. The power of the AIDS Memorial Quilt and each of the panels contained within is that it raises awareness of the loss of humanity and it replaces those numbers and statistics with faces and names. The panels illustrate the lives, potential and contributions of those lost, and demonstrate how we are all interconnected. The NAMES Quilt has affected the lives of many people, bridging racial, sexual and religious barriers to unite millions in the fight against AIDS. People remark how seeing a display of the Quilt forever changes them.
What is the history of the Hope Center’s Art to Remember Project? How will this project be meaningful for me?
Art to Remember is a local extension of the larger NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. This is not a new project for Hope Center as the Hope Center was very involved between 1997 through 2004 in a local chapter of the NAMES Project - AIDS Memorial Quilt. During that time Hope Center took the lead in getting panels made.
In 1998, Hope Center hosted the 3rd largest AIDS Memorial Quilt display in the nation. Nearly 2,800 panels filled the Knoxville Convention Center. In preparation, panel making workshops began and 41 new panels were created and then dedicated at the conclusion of that display. The Hope Center stayed actively involved in panel making for several years after that. Since the disease now disproportionately affects women and minorities, very few panels have been made. Hope Center hopes to fill this void.
Panel makers are most often family members, caregivers, partners, friends and co-workers. Each panel is indeed a work of love and art that truly gives you a sense of who this adult or child was. Many times panels are made of personal items belonging to the deceased. Some panels have hidden compartments that may contain personal letters from friends and family members or even a packet of the person's ashes.
Panel making is more than creating a fabric memorial to someone, it is also very healing, helping direct grief into something positive, something that continues to show this person was here and this person mattered.
How can I participate in this project? What needs to be done by volunteers?
In its database, Hope Center has over 400 deceased members who are not represented in the AIDS Memorial Quilt. We believe that many family members, friends, co-workers and partners would be interested in this creative opportunity to capture and remember the essence of their loved one. With the emphasis on "Living with HIV' in the past decade, the focus on dying from HIV disease has been greatly diminished, which has impacted the panel making efforts nationally.
Hope Center believes that panel making can co-exist with the new emphasis on HIV disease being a manageable chronic disease. There is still the need to remember and honor those who are gone and to help those left behind with their grief. It is more than creating art. It is about healing, awareness, and ongoing education. With funding from the East Tennessee Foundation Arts Fund, Hope Center plans to re-energize panel making in the area.
Local panel making will provide an opportunity for dozens of interested people to come together and create a unique memorial for someone whose life mattered and touched them. In some cases children will make a panel for a parent; a mom and/or dad will make a panel for a son or daughter; former customers will craft a panel for someone who cut their hair. For others lost to HIV and abandoned, Hope Center volunteers will design panels for them because there is no one else to do it.
Art to Remember is facilitating panel making and will assist family, friends and others with training, materials, and volunteer support. Volunteers are essential for making panels, helping others sew panels, or assisting with shopping and emotional care. Our goal is to make 24 – 36 panels before December 1, 2014.
On World AIDS Day, December 1, 2014, Hope Center will sponsor a dedication ceremony of new panels at The Southern Depot in Knoxville. Volunteers will also be needed at this event to help with emotional support, logistics, monitoring or other dedication activities. After December 1, the new panels will be sent to the NAMES Project national office in Atlanta to be incorporated into the entire AIDS Memorial Quilt.