Quilt Stories

Quilt Stories is a SCAD-Atlanta Writing Program project in partnership with the AIDS Memorial Quilt. It’s an audio history of the AIDS Quilt, featuring segments written and produced by SCAD-Atlanta Writing students. The project began as a collaboration between SCAD-Atlanta and the NAMES Project.

Click here to access the stories.

The AIDS Memorial quilt is a 54-ton work of community folk art celebrating the lives of over 100,000 people who died from AIDS or AIDS-related causes. The goal of the quilt project is to raise awareness about the scope of the AIDS pandemic and to create a honoring memorial to recognize those who died, many of whom did not receive traditional burials and funerals either because of their family’s sense of stigma or because of the refusal of funeral homes to handle the remains of the deceased.

The Quilt was conceived in November 1985 when activist Cleve Jones asked attendees of an AIDS candlelight march to bring signs with names of loved ones they had lost to AIDS. Jones then compiled the signs, taping them into a cohesive unit on the side of the old San Francisco Federal building. When Jones saw this patchwork project, he was inspired to make it permanent.

Months later, Jones and some of his friends began a national effort to form the NAMES Quilt by asking friends and relatives of people who had died from AIDS to ship a 3’ x 6’ fabric panel decorated to celebrate the life of their loved one. The panels, which are sometimes made by a single individual and sometimes made through a communal effort, are created through typical quilting methods like stencils, beading, iron-ons, and embroidery, and occasionally, through the creative incorporation of eclectic objects such as hair, condoms, bowling balls, crystals, feathers, and bubble wrap. Most panels are also delivered with a letter, photographs, and other archival material outlining the life of the person celebrated and the relationship they shared to those who made the quilt.

To date, over 48,000 quilt panels have been compiled. The physical panels are kept on permanent display at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco and the archival information which corresponds to each panel is kept at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. Through the work of a team of archivists, this information, as well as photographs of each panel, is in the process of being digitized for public access. The project has raised more than $1.7 million dollars for AIDS prevention and education since 1996 and was nominated for a Noble Peace Prize in 1989.