by Elizabeth McCarthy
The AIDS Memorial Quilt is an important piece of this nation’s history that is now currently visiting UT’s campus from November 8 through December 3.
The Quilt represents the thousands of lives that have been lost to AIDS during the epidemic in the 1980s. The Pride Center in collaboration with McClung Museum has helped arrange the visit of the Quilt at UT, with multiple viewing locations across campus.
“The Pride Center has graciously received SPSF funding from the Office of the Vice Chancellor to bring the Quilt to campus and fund our affiliated programming all month long,” Bonnie Johnson, Pride Center coordinator and UT grad said. “As the campus lead, I applied for the funding as well as submitted the Quilt application to the National AIDS Memorial organization itself.”
World AIDS Day is held this year on December 1, which is why the Quilt’s visit came at the perfect time.
“I believe that society and young people today do not understand the true impact that the epidemic had on our healthcare system, the LGBTQ+ community, and LGBTQ+ activism at large,” Johnson continued. “We lost such a significant portion of a generation to HIV/AIDS, and much activism from the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s has been based on either HIV/AIDS itself or the societal discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS and the LGBTQ+ community.”
This is why the Quilt coming to UT is so important, it’s a way to educate the UT community on topics that they may not know more than surface-level information about. The Quilt represents a visual representation of the impact of the epidemic to its visitors. All pieces of the Quilt will be on display for viewing and interactive purposes.
There are eight pieces of the Quilt, which will all be displayed in various locations throughout campus chosen by the locations themselves, after an open call was sent out across campus to see who would be interested in hosting. Multiple people across campus seemed excited about housing the pieces; so much so that the Quilt is already confirmed coming back next year to these locations and more. Some of the display locations include the Ewing Gallery, Student Union Gallery, and the McClung Museum Lobby.
“For the McClung Museum, showcasing such a critical artwork was an obvious tie-in to our mission,” Katy Malone, curator of academic programs at the Museum said. “We should be creating space and dialogue for compassion and understanding of the world around us, and I personally think the Quilt is one of the most important pieces of art ever made.”
In addition to viewing locations, there will also be opportunities for the campus community to make their own versions of the Quilt pieces. There will be decorating tables at many of the display sites, as well as at other colleges in the area. This version of the Quilt made by students will be assembled in the spring for a summer donation to the AIDS Memorial Quilt Organization.
Almost all of the Quilt blocks coming to UT feature local community members from the Knoxville and Oak Ridge areas. This is clearly a cause near-and-dear to the UT community’s hearts.
Elizabeth is a senior from Philadelphia, PA, majoring in public relations with a minor in business management. She has a passion for graphic design, social media and writing, and her favorite thing to do at UT is attending football games with her friends. She plans to move to Nashville after her graduation in May to pursue public relations and marketing.