AIDS Memorial Quilt is on display in Wilmington

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Part of the AIDS Memorial Quilt from the interactive name database. Panels from the quilt are on display at the Cameron Art Museum, UNCW, Novant, St. Jude’s Metropolitan Church, St. Paul’s Episcopal, and St. Stephen AME. (Courtesy photo)

WILMINGTON – A group of community partners are working together to honor multiple plaques of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at local Wilmington venues for a month-long commemoration prior to World AIDS Day on December 1st.

“World AIDS Day brings survivors, families, artists, religious organizations, medical professionals, scientists, politicians and activists together to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic, reduce stigma and grieve those who have participated in the Disease, “Michaela Howells, UNCW Department of Anthropology, said in a press release.

UNCW is one of many community partners including the LGBTQ Center of the Cape Fear Coast (formerly Frank Harr Foundation), SEEDS of Healing and Novant / NHRMC who organize events. Panels will be shown at venues across Wilmington including:

  • Cameron Art Museum
  • UNCW Randall Library
  • UNCW cultural art building
  • UNCW Kenan Auditorium
  • UNCW veterans hall
  • Novant Health New State Hospital Hanover
  • St. Judas Metropolitan Community Church
  • St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
  • St. Stephen’s AME Church

The quilt, the greatest piece of folk art in the world, was created in 1987 in San Francisco at the height of the AIDS crisis, once on display in a shop front on Market Street in the Castro District. That same year, the quilt was displayed on the National Mall in Washington during the National March for the Rights of Lesbian and Gay Rights in Washington.

It has grown exponentially since then and now includes 50,000 panels recognizing and honoring 105,000 people who lost their lives to the virus. It was relocated to Atlanta and weighs 54 tons, with each slab measuring 12 feet by 12 feet. Eight or nine names are highlighted, hand-sewn, and decorated on the panels by loved ones remembering their deceased friends and family (all names on the quilt can be searched in the quilt’s interactive database).

World AIDS Day panels are distributed each year so communities can celebrate and honor those who lost the battle and stand by those who continue to fight the virus. The quilt is not just a keepsake, but an evolving piece of art that inspires activism and education.

Since the AIDS crisis began, over 79 million people have contracted the virus and over 36 million have died. Although modern medicine has reduced the viral load and essentially helped many people survive, the epidemic still affects marginalized communities who do not have access to health care.

The Cape Fear Coast LGBTQ Center called the southeastern region “one of the areas in the country with rising rates of new HIV infections and the number of people living with HIV”. It will host one of many events – including free HIV testing – scheduled around the two-week exhibition of the quilt.

Further events are planned for March 2022 at the UNCW as part of the National Women and Girls HIV / AIDS Awareness Day, which will take place on March 10th. The panels of the quilt will be available by the end of March at the UNCW locations in collaboration with the Büro der Künste Artivism for Change. The program focuses on art that focuses on social justice with the hope of inspiring community engagement and empowerment.

The following are events scheduled from Sunday November 21st through Sunday December 5th:

November 21, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Free Quilt Story Reading: A staged reading from the Mouth of Babes Theater
UNCW Randall Library Auditorium, RM 2047

The local theater group Mouths of Babes will present a work in progress in collaboration with the UNCW. “Quilt Stories” is a monologue-based performance, inspired by interviews with people who have lost their loved ones in the AIDS crisis.

It is described as a “meditation on life, love and loss”, inspired by the various panels of the quilt, each one honoring a life and each telling its own story.

The hour-long performance is a staged reading followed by a short conversation.

November 28, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Quilt reception and reminder for World AIDS Day
Brooklyn Arts Center outbuilding at 516 N 4th St.

The official reception will feature heavy hor d’oeuvres from Milner’s Cafe and Catering and a bar will be open. The official AIDS Memorial Quilt welcome and World AIDS Day recognition, hosted by the Cape Fear Coast LGBTQ Center, are designed to draw attention to the ongoing epidemic.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the LGBTQ centre’s ongoing HIV education and awareness-raising efforts. Masks are required indoors.

November 30, 12 a.m. – 1.30 p.m.

AIDS Memorial Quilt Tutorial / Demonstration • Free
Cape Fear Coast LGBTQ Center, 1624 Princess St.

Learn how panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt are made and added to the overall carpet. For those who cannot attend the event on November 30th, appointments can be made at the center.

Dec 1, 1 p.m.

Free HIV test and Amazon gift card
Cape Fear Coast LGBTQ Center, 1624 Princess St.

Dec 1

Day Without Art • Free
UNCW Cultural Arts Building, UNCW Campus

The Cultural Arts Building is an international day of action and mourning in response to the AIDS crisis and will be one of over 800 art organizations, museums and galleries in the USA that are participating with veiling artworks. In their place will be information about HIV and safer sex when the gallery locks its doors or dims its lights to produce exhibitions, programs, readings, memorials, rituals and performances.

December 3, 7:30 p.m.

UNCW Symphony Volume • $ 10
UNCW Kenan Auditorium, UNCW campus

At the concert, the UNCW Symphonic Band – students from the Music Department and across campus – will play the best available wind literature, including traditional brass band repertoire, marches, transcriptions and the latest 21st century works. It is directed by Dominic Talanca.

Dec. 4, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Red Ribbon Event • $ 20 and more
Cameron Art Museum, 3201 S 17th St.

SEEDS of Healing (SOH) is hosting the 4th Red Ribbon Event at the Cameron Art Museum. The event carries the common message of the community: “ThinkRedILM”.

The main speaker will be the solo pianist Duke Ladd and the HIV / AIDS activist and educator Ms. Alicia Diggs, CEO and founder of “I Will Live”.

All attendees will have access to the AIDS Memorial Quilt, but will also be able to see all of the CAM’s current exhibits, including Pinkie’s Memories by Pinkie Strother and Stephen Hayes’ Voices of Future’s Past, as well as his bronze sculpture “Boundless,” recently installed at to honor the USCT Colored Troops.

December 5, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

AIDS Quilt Community Display • Free
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 16 N. 16th St.

View the quilt from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the historic church located on the corner of 16 and Market Streets in downtown Wilmington.


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