AIDS Quilt Out of Spotlight, but Big Plans Are in Works
January 22, 2003
In Sacramento, Calif., where the AIDS Memorial Quilt was born, activity around the project has dwindled to a trickle since its move to Atlanta. But the quilt is still growing.Adapted from:
Cleve Jones, who founded the AIDS quilt effort and sewed its first panel in 1987 while he was living in Sacramento and working as a lobbyist, decided to call the quilt operation the Names Project. "It was because we kept seeing all these anonymous figures and horror stories, but the tragedy didn't seem to have any names. I wanted to show that these were real people," said Jones, who now lives in Palm Springs, where he continues to lead the Names Project Foundation.
As for the size of the quilt panels, he said, "I wanted the quilts 3 feet by 6 feet, the size of a grave, to show how much space these people would need if they were all buried in one place." The last time the quilt was displayed in one piece was Oct. 11, 1996, in Washington, D.C. It weighed 42 tons then and contained 38,000 panels. Today, it weighs more than 60 tons and includes 60,000 panels.
The quilt and its support staff moved from San Francisco to Atlanta in March 2001. There it can be kept in a climate-controlled warehouse between appearances. But the warehouse was not the reason the quilt was moved, Jones said. "Let's face it. The world identifies San Francisco with white gay men, but AIDS is doing its worst in women of color. The directors decided, correctly, that Atlanta would be the proper place from which to continue to get the word out," he said.
Plans are afoot to display the quilt in Washington, D.C., on Columbus Day 2004, in the midst of the national election campaign. Jones estimated it would take three days to read all the names as the quilt is unfurled by a force of 20,000 volunteers.
01.10.03; Walt Wiley