The National AIDS Memorial Quilt

October 8, 2021January 2, 2022

With over 50,000 panels created by thousands of participants worldwide, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is the world’s largest community folk art project. Made up of individually created three by six-foot panels—each the approximate size of a grave—the Quilt memorializes 125,000-plus victims of AIDS and HIV-related illness. Portraits appear alongside names and dates, pictures of pets, flowers, rainbows, musical instruments, and thousands of other symbols that represent friends, lovers, and family members. Currently spanning 1.2 million square feet and weighing 54 tons, the Quilt is a powerful symbol of the AIDS pandemic and a living memorial to a generation lost to AIDS and HIV-related illness.

The Quilt was conceived by long-time San Francisco gay rights activist Cleve Jones, who in 1978 created the first panel in memory of his friend Marvin Feldman. That same year the Quilt grew to 1,920 panels and on October 11, 1987, it was exhibited for the first time on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. where half a million people visited on the opening weekend. Jones said of the Quilt, “It could be therapy, I hoped, for a community that was increasingly paralyzed by grief and rage and powerlessness. It could be a tool for the media, to reveal the humanity behind the statistics. And a weapon to deploy against the government; to shame them with stark visual evidence of their utter failure to respond to the suffering and death that spread and increased with every passing day.”

This focused installation brings together two blocks of the Quilt in conjunction with moCa’s presentation of Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A. and World AIDS Day (December 1). Block 0227 and Block 4506 are a poignant and beautiful tribute to the lives of Edmundo “Mundo” Meza—the artist at the center of Axis Mundo—James Brooke Shoulberg, Michael McDowell, David Caroline, Merle Long, Hugo Niehaus, John (surname unknown), John Doe, Terry David Hernandez, E. Gordon Hanna, Jorge Fernandez, Steve Brown, Ted Zak, David Lewis, Paul Mark Patinka, and Michael F. Farrell. With thousands of displays of the Quilt in locations across the globe, over 14 million people have experienced and participated in the project. To learn more about the National AIDS Memorial Quilt please visit www.aidsmemorial.org/quilt

moCa’s presentation of The National AIDS Memorial Quilt is organized by Courtenay Finn, Chief Curator, Ray Juaire, Exhibitions Director, Lauren Leving, Curator of Public Programs & Artist Residencies, Karl Anderson, Exhibition Technician, and supported by the entire moCa Cleveland staff.