AIDS Memorial Quilt to be displayed Nov. 17-20 at WCU

Western Carolina University will display nine of the more than 40,000 blocks of the AIDS Memorial Quilt from Wednesday, Nov. 17, to Saturday, Nov. 20, at the Fine Art Museum.The AIDS Memorial Quilt, founded in 1987 and facilitated by the NAMES Project Foundation, serves as an educational tool to promote the awareness of AIDS and the devastating impact of the disease. Each 12-foot block of the quilt is made up of panels that memorialize the life of a person lost to AIDS.

“What I find really interesting about the AIDS Memorial Quilt is that it not only is a piece of art, but also a prevention tool for HIV/AIDS,” said Holly Sorensen, wellness specialist with WCU campus recreation and wellness. “The quilt also serves as a beacon of hope for finding a cure.”

Lori Davis, assistant director for campus activities, said the event, which was timed to coincide with the performance of the musical “Rent” at WCU, will help spark conversations about an important but often taboo topic of HIV and AIDS. In Jonathan Larson’s “Rent,” a group of struggling New York artists and musicians are affected by the disease.

“HIV/AIDS is a topic often shied away from, and these two events offer a powerful way to have discussions on our campus about HIV and AIDS,” said Davis.

When WCU hosted panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in 2007, comments from visitors ranged from expressing discomfort to conveying that nobody wants to get tested, which emphasized to event organizers the importance of hosting educational programs about the disease.

Visitors can view the quilt panels from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17, and Thursday, Nov. 18; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19; and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20.

An opening ceremony will be held in partnership with the Western NC AIDS Project at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17.

At the closing ceremony, set for 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20, in advance of a 7:30 p.m. performance of “Rent” at WCU, Peter Koch, education specialist at the Mountain Heritage Center, will discuss the history of quilting.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt committee is looking for more volunteers to help with the event, and to guard sections of the quilt during the exhibit. For more information, contact Jennifer Cooper, assistant director of service learning at WCU, at jacooper@wcu.eduor 828-227-2595.