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The portion of the AIDS Memorial Quilt on display at Connecticut College this week covers three entire walls of Tansill Theater, wrapping around viewers who come to take in the magnitude of the premier symbol of the AIDS pandemic.
“Experiencing the Quilt in this way is rare. Often, it’s displayed as one section of nine panels, so being surrounded by the Quilt with nine complete sections in Tansill Theater is incredibly powerful,” said Ginny Anderson, assistant professor of theater and co-coordinator of the display.
Weighing 54 tons and composed of more than 48,000 panels dedicated to more than 94,000 individuals, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is the largest ongoing piece of community art in the world. Each panel of the massive quilt measures 3 feet by 6 feet, the approximate size of a human grave. In recognition of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, the quilt will be on display through Dec. 2 from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. at Tansill Theater. The exhibition is free and open to the public.
Watch "The AIDS Memorial Quilt comes to Connecticut College" on TheDay.com.
Lorena De Leon '22, who is taking Anderson’s popular "Theater of the AIDS Epidemic" course, said seeing the quilt in person took her breath away.
"There’s a sort of bittersweetness that comes over you as you take in the beauty of the quilt, but also a sense of remembrance that we have yet to stitch the final panel, which represents the final AIDS case."
De Leon and other students in Anderson's class, including Erin Greatorex '21, helped unfold pieces of the quilt to prepare them for display. Greatorex said she felt honored to be touching the panels made with so much love by the families and friends of people who died with AIDS.
"You can see the attention to detail, the individuality and the care that is put into the quilt," she said. "Some of the panels have really heart-wrenching messages or mementos from their lives. There is just an overwhelming amount of love and loss in the display—it is truly powerful."
Anderson, who first brought the quilt to Conn in 2014, says it's her goal to give every Conn student a chance to experience the piece firsthand.
“There is so much we can learn about compassion from the quilt, for those lost as well as for those left behind,” she said.
Daphne Michie '21 said she thinks its especially important for today's youth to see the quilt.
"I feel that the AIDS epidemic has faded in the conscious of my generation. The quilt is a reminder of not only the human loss during the epidemic but also the fact that AIDS has a large presence in today's society. AIDS is not over. The quilt makes that real for people," she said.
The exhibition is co-sponsored by the Alliance for Living, the only HIV/AIDS service organization and resource center in southeastern Connecticut. The display is made possible through the support of a Holleran Center Margaret Sheridan Community Learning Grant; Connecticut College’s Co-Sponsorship Fund; The Academic Resource Center; Arts Programming; The Departments of Anthropology; Art; Art History; Dance; Gender, Sexuality and Intersectionality Studies; and Theatre; Gender and Sexuality Programs; and the Office of the Dean of the College.