SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) will host sections of the internationally celebrated AIDS Memorial Quilt, the 54½-ton, handmade tapestry that stands as a memorial to more than 96,000 individuals lost to AIDS. In conjunction with its 30th anniversary, the quilt will be on view at the Griswold Theatre Lobby and West Wing Gallery in the Karen Sprague Cultural Arts Center on the AIC campus from Thursday, Nov. 30 through Sunday, Dec. 3.
Officially beginning in 1987, the quilt is a memorial to and celebration of the lives of people lost to AIDS. In the 1980s, many who died of AIDS-related causes did not receive funerals due to the social stigma attached to the disease and the refusal of many funeral homes and cemeteries to handle the remains of the deceased. Without the ability to hold memorial services or have access to burial sites, the quilt was often the only opportunity family members, friends, and survivors had to remember and celebrate the lives of those they lost.
Today, the quilt is maintained and displayed by the NAMES Project Foundation. Individual quilt panels are typically very personalized and are created by the loved ones of an individual who died of AIDS-related causes. By design, each panel is 3 feet by 6 feet, the size of a human grave. Panels are donated to the NAMES Project Foundation where they are grouped with other similar panels and assembled into 12-by-12-foot sections called blocks, which are on view at local displays of the quilt. There will be 20 blocks on display at AIC. The response to the announcement that the college will host the quilt has been positive, with requests from the Boston area, Cape Cod, and Connecticut to have specific panels included.
One goal of the quilt is to bring awareness to the enormity of the AIDS pandemic and to provide support to those affected by it. Another objective is to raise funds for community-based AIDS service organizations and to increase funding for AIDS prevention and education.
The AIDS Quilt display will be open to the public on Thursday, Nov. 30 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 1 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 2 from noon to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 3 from noon to 5 p.m.
The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in Lot I across from the Karen Sprague Cultural Arts Center on the corner of State and Maynard streets. Visit aic.edu/quilt for more information.