The AIDS Memorial Quilt

Still Here: Art on HIV/AIDS  from October 29th to December 7th, 2019 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Gabrielle O’Brien

In the current exhibit, “Still Here: Art on HIV/AIDS”, the Stamp Gallery is lucky enough to feature panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Currently comprising over 50,000 panels and weighing 54 tons, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is the largest ongoing community folk art project in the world. The Quilt began in 1987 in San Francisco during the height of the AIDS epidemic as a way to remember and honor loved ones who died from the disease.


Since then, thousands of panels from around the world have been added to The Quilt by family members, partners, and friends, each one a unique and personal memorial to someone who lost their life to AIDS. The Quilt brings humanity to the AIDS epidemic, a crisis that is often clouded by stigma and impersonalized with science. The panels featured in the Gallery include panels for those who lived local to College Park, including some UMD alumni. Each panel is distinctive with some integrating photographs, others including articles of clothing, and many with handwritten messages.

quilt 2.pngYet the love and the pain and injustice of loss is obvious throughout all panels. This not only makes the crisis feel all the more real, but also highlights the universality of the AIDS epidemic. Having panels of The Quilt here for the first time in 30 years emphasizes the fact that AIDS still constitutes a crisis today and is not a thing of the past. In fact, 770,000 people died from AIDS-related illness worldwide and 37.9 million people were living with HIV in 2018. In an age where scientific knowledge expands each day and biomedicine advances at a rapid rate, it is unacceptable that we are allowing so many lives to be taken by a potentially curable and treatable disease. This is where the AIDS Memorial Quilt may serve its most important purpose—to remind the world of the souls behind the numbers and motivate those with power to finally bring an end to the crisis.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt is included in Still Here: Art on HIV/AIDS at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from October 29th to December 7th, 2019. 

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