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Experience the Smithsonian AIDS Memorial Quilt Panel
July 15, 2013

Quilt panel

THe Quilt panel on display during the Smithsonian Staff Picnic on the National Mall

The Smithsonian AIDS Memorial Quilt Panel will be displayed in the Kogod Courtyard at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery on July 17th, between 11:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. This is a special one-day-only opportunity for members of the public to view a meaningful Smithsonian community art project. Alli Jessing, Programs coordinator and auditorium manager at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, talks about her experiences working on the quilt.

The 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival featured a program titled Creativity and Crisis: Unfolding The AIDS Memorial Quilt. A portion of the AIDS Quilt was displayed on the National Mall during the Festival and visitors were invited to experience this powerful symbol of the AIDS pandemic. During this time, the Smithsonian community also rallied together to create a panel for the Quilt. It started with a half-dozen staff members sketching out ideas over coffee. After more than a year of dedicated work, the Smithsonian AIDS Memorial Quilt Panel is complete thanks to the efforts of more than 140 staff, docents and interns from offices all across the Smithsonian who volunteered time, skills, energy and supplies towards the project.

Quilt Bee

Volunteers spend their lunch hour at a quilting bee in the lobby of the McEvoy Auditorium at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Lunch hours were spent at quilting bees and volunteers crocheted tiny flowers for the garden scene while commuting on the metro. Workshops were organized to help teach staff who wanted to contribute to the project but didn’t know how sew. Office file cabinets were filled with scraps of fabric, yarn and countless spools of thread. When I arrived at my office in the morning, there would often be a bag of donated material on my desk, or a stack of completed quilt blocks waiting for me.

The panel commemorates the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival that brought the AIDS Memorial Quilt to the National Mall. It features a fabric representation of the Smithsonian Castle, and knitted and crocheted flowers to make up the beautiful gardens. An illustrated statue of Joseph Henry (the first Secretary of the Smithsonian) watches over the scene. The rose window on the Castle is a doily, handmade by my great-grandmother. Smithsonian volunteers created several miniature versions of panels already in the AIDS Memorial Quilt, but some of the panels were created to remember friends, family and colleagues who have passed away from AIDS. Working hands-on with the Quilt became an intensely emotional experience for many of us, and we are extremely proud of the completed project.

The completed panel was unveiled at the 2013 Smithsonian staff picnic, which is held annually on the National Mall during the Folklife Festival. Anyone who worked on the quilt was invited to sign the border.

The Smithsonian AIDS Quilt Block is approximately 12 ft. x 12 ft., and weighs more than 20 lbs. After being displayed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, the panel will be transferred to The NAMES Project, the custodians of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. As of 2012, the AIDS Memorial Quilt included more than 48,000 panels dedicated to over 90,000 individuals, and weighed in at over 54 tons. The Smithsonian AIDS Memorial Quilt panel will become part of this powerful global exhibition that fosters understanding, hope and healing in the face of crisis.

Posted by Georgina on July 15, 2013 in American Art Here, Newsworthy


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