AIDS Memorial Quilt comes to the MAM

By - Jun 7th, 2010 04:00 am
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Photo courtesy of MAM and the ARCW

Panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt that are unique to Milwaukee and to noted fashion designers will be displayed this month at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

A 1987 panel from the first incarnation of the quilt, created by the Milwaukee AIDS Project (now the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin), will help celebrate the organization’s 25th anniversary. In addition, nine specially selected panels will also be on display that feature contributions from over 30 fashion designers, including  Oscar De La Renta, Versace, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan.

“Fashion designers joined the earliest ranks of leaders in the fight against AIDS, and they used their creativity to compel others to be bold and join them in building a dialogue,” says Joseph Pabst, advisor to the Johnson & Pabst LGBT Humanity Fund, who was also recently honored as ARCW’s philanthropist of the year.

The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt was first displayed on the National Mall in Washington in 1987. The quilt’s 1,920 panels each memorialized someone who had died from AIDS, including ARCW’s panel for the Milwaukeeans who lost their lives to the earliest onslaught of the epidemic.

Currently, more than 40,000 panels make up the quilt, which travels in pieces for exhibition around the world. It is considered the largest community art project in existence.

The exhibit, beginning tomorrow and ending June 20, runs in conjunction with American Quilts: Selections from the Winterthur Collection. More than 40 pieces will be on display from the extensive collection of antiques and Americana at Deleware’s Winterhur Museum. Selections from the exhibit highlight the domestic and community landscapes as depicted by women artisans of the late-18th to mid-19th centuries.

The AIDS Quilt panels “are very special, because they catalyzed our nation’s response to policy by moving the topic of HIV/AIDS into mainstream society,” says ARCW president and CEO Doug Nelson, “We are proud to be a part of this exhibit, because it serves as a celebration of how far we have come in the fight against AIDS and reminds us of how far we have yet to go.”

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 443 new cases of HIV infection were reported in 2009. The total number of cases reported since 1983 in Wisconsin is 10,765. Through education, increased access to social services and more effective retroviral treatments, though, the number of AIDS-related deaths in Wisconsin has decreased since the 1990s.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt exhibition is free to the public; admission price to the museum is not required.

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