On Monday, Aug. 11, and Tuesday, Aug. 12, selections from the massive AIDS Memorial Quilt were on display on Governors Island, a 172-acre island only 800 yards from lower Manhattan, accessible via a $2 ferry ride. Members of TheBody.com's team visited early Monday morning to take pictures and experience a portion of this legendary community folk art firsthand. The display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which is cared for by the NAMES Project Foundation, was sponsored by an ongoing partnership between Kiehl's and amfAR.
Dozens of panels, each containing about six or more quilts, were arranged on the meadow in the middle of the island. At the edge of each panel was a box of tissues, most of which were untouched as we got off only the second ferry to depart for Governors Island that morning. Visitors walked around the quilts -- some in pairs, some alone, some with parents or children -- in silence.
The soundtrack to the morning was a combination of mic checks from the sound people preparing for the press conference, helicopters flying to lower Manhattan and a construction crew playing popular music only a few yards away. To experience the quilt, one had to concentrate actively on the stillness amid the distraction.
Each panel featured a diverse set of stories -- some of women, some of gay men, some dedicated from lovers, some dedicated from the community. The people in attendance were also diverse -- college professors, children, gay men and women. As I passed a set of panels that had me entranced by their authenticity and complexity, a mother had to ask her three daughters not to touch the quilts and to observe respectfully.
TheBody.com was able to speak with one individual who had only just then taken on the role of a volunteer. He had arrived very early that morning and was compelled to help people from the NAMES Project unfurl the quilts. In the video below, he speaks about his HIV diagnosis and what the quilt means to him as someone living with HIV.
Mathew Rodriguez is the community editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Mathew on Twitter: @mathewrodriguez.
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