SAN FRANCISCO (February 18, 2020) – Organizers of Golden Gate Park’s 150th Anniversary and representatives of the National AIDS Memorial announced today that portions of the iconic AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display in Golden Gate Park April 3-5 to coincide with the official 150th birthday celebration of Golden Gate Park on April 4th that is expected to bring thousands of people to “Everybody’s Park” for free events, activities and entertainment.
The display of the Quilt will be the largest ever in San Francisco and consist of 1,920 panels, approximately the same size and shape as the first major Quilt display that took place in Washington D.C. in 1987.
The Golden Gate Park 150th Anniversary Quilt display will take place in Robin Williams Meadows, along Bowling Green Drive, and in the National AIDS Memorial Grove. The Quilt panels on display will be comprised of panels that have been added to the Quilt’s nearly 50,000 panels in recent years, reflecting the story of HIV and AIDS during the past decade, particularly in communities of color.
“The face of HIV and AIDS has changed drastically since the pandemic devastated communities across the United States and San Francisco nearly 40 years ago,” said John Cunningham, executive director of the National AIDS Memorial. “This display, the largest ever of the Quilt in San Francisco history, will be a reminder of what we all have lost, how far we have come, and where we need to go in the future to remember, heal and educate future generations about the devastating impact of this disease.”
“By highlighting the most recent panels, we hope to show the current state of HIV deaths and remind the nation of the ongoing and immediate toll that AIDS is taking today, nearly 40 years after this scourge began,” said Cleve Jones, one of the original founders of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
In November 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with Representatives John Lewis and Barbara Lee, announced that the Quilt would move from the NAMES Project Foundation in Atlanta where it has been cared for since 2001, back to the San Francisco Bay Area, under the stewardship of the National AIDS Memorial. The Quilt archival collection is being transferred under the care of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, making it available to the public through the world’s largest public library. Gilead Sciences has provided a $2.4 million donation to the National AIDS Memorial to support the Quilt, its public education programs and its relocation to San Francisco.
The April 3-5 display will begin at 11am on Friday April 3 with a traditional unfolding ceremony and the reading of the names of those memorialized in the Quilt. The display will continue into Saturday April 4, during Golden Gate Park’s Community Day anniversary event, and will close at 5 pm on Sunday April 5.
“People come to Golden Gate Park to heal, to express themselves, to get a respite from City life.,” said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. “The Quilt and the National AIDS Memorial are an important part of the park and its history. As we bring thousands of people together to celebrate and honor our beloved park, it is only fitting that they have this meaningful experience to see the Quilt and learn about the lives that are part of each and every panel.”
“With the Quilt now back home in the Bay Area, it is possible to display its panels as part of events like Everybody’s Park,” said San Francisco District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. “This is where the Quilt belongs, on display in public, memorializing lives lost and inspiring us to do the work to get to zero new HIV infections and zero HIV-related deaths. Many thanks and congratulations to the National AIDS Memorial and all those who made the Quilt’s return possible.”
The Quilt is an extraordinary piece of history, art, activism and hope. Thirty-three years ago during the height of the AIDS epidemic, a group of strangers gathered at a San Francisco storefront to remember the names and lives of loved ones they feared history would forget – and with that seemingly simple act of love and defiance, the first panels of the Quilt were created. Three years later and just a few miles away, another small group of San Franciscans, also representing a community devastated by the AIDS epidemic, gathered in a grove in Golden Gate Park to restore it and create a serene place where people seeking healing could gather to express their collective grief through a living AIDS memorial, which is now known as the National AIDS Memorial.
The Quilt, sewn together by friends, lovers and family members over the course of three decades, now contains nearly 50,000 panels, weighs more than 54 tons and memorializes more than 105,000 individual lives of people who have died of AIDS-related complications. It is a visual reminder of the AIDS pandemic and continues as the largest ongoing community art project in the world. There are more than 1.1 million people currently living with HIV in the United States, with more than 15,000 people having died of AIDS-related complications in 2017 alone. In 2016, more than 38,000 people received an HIV diagnosis, with half of those living in the South, and Black/African American gay and bisexual men accounting for the largest number of HIV diagnoses.
Outdoor displays of the Quilt are very rare, requiring hundreds of volunteers who can be trained in emergency rain fold procedures that can protect the entire Quilt from inclement weather in under 45 seconds. Extensive preparations are required to provide visitors with detailed maps of the names and locations each panel, much like a cemetery directory. Outdoor displays also include aisles and walkways where visitors can walk onto the Quilt to experience each panel up close. Teams of volunteers remove the Quilt from the ground each evening for safekeeping and rebuild the display each morning.
The National AIDS Memorial welcomes volunteers to participate in the Quilt display. Sign-up information and more details about the Quilt display can be found at AIDSMemorial.org and GoldenGatePark150.com.
About Golden Gate Park 150: 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of Golden Gate Park. A yearlong celebration of “Everybody’s Park” is being organized by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and the San Francisco Parks Alliance. The anniversary is bringing together more than 150 cultural institutions and community groups to honor Golden Gate Park and it’s past, present and future. The yearlong celebration will include major events and attractions, including a free park-wide community celebration on April 4th -- exactly 150 years after the California Legislature created Golden Gate Park. The April 4th event will bring together thousands of San Franciscans and visitors to experience the park and all that it has to offer for people of all ages and interests. Major events and attractions being planned include the AIDS Quilt, a 150-foot observation wheel, community arts group performances, a family and kids carnival and a large picnic area with live entertainment. Learn more at GoldenGatePark150.com.
About the National AIDS Memorial: The National AIDS Memorial works to ensure that the story of AIDS and the AIDS movement is known in perpetuity so that never again will the nation allow a community to be devastated by an epidemic because of fear, silence, discrimination or stigma. Created 29 years ago in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the memorial is a place where those impacted by AIDS can grieve and heal. In 1996, legislation by U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, elevating “the Grove” as this nation’s sole federally-designated National AIDS Memorial. Learn more at AIDSMemorial.org
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