In 1987, a small group of strangers gathered in a San Francisco storefront to create a memorial for those who had died of the growing AIDS epidemic. They sewed panels in remembrance, in hopes that one day there would be a cure. Today, The NAMES Project, is once again meeting in a storefront, this time in Atlanta, where The Quilt has been housed since 2002. The organization announced it will move its headquarters from Midtown to a 2,500 square-foot Downtown storefront that will serve as visitor and education center, and will house the bulk of the 54-ton Quilt in a 4,200 square-foot warehouse space in Tucker, Ga. Both locations will be open in June.
“This national treasure will become an essential component of a thriving Downtown to share with the city and the millions of visitors who travel here each year,” explained NAMES Project President & CEO, Julie Rhoad “The Quilt has a powerful story to tell – a story of social justice and human rights that aligns seamlessly with the legacy of Atlanta.”
The new Downtown space, located at 117 Luckie Street, doubles the agency’s footprint for on-site programming – enhancing its ability to host the nearly 2,000 visitors it sees annually for free panel-making workshops; HIV prevention, education and artistic programming; displays; and to ultimately share more of the stories behind The Quilt and its 30-year history. In addition, the new location will be home to The AIDS Quilt Touch (Quilt Touch), a digital browser that enables exploration of The Quilt in its entirety on a tabletop digital browser and online via two interactive kiosks also located on-site.
The Quilt joins the growing number of Downtown attractions, including the National Center For Civil & Human Rights and Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic Site, that draw an estimated 19 million visitors to Downtown each year. It will also be an education resource to the 65 thousand students in and adjacent to Downtown. And it is accessible via MARTA and is on the Atlanta Steetcar route.
“We’re thrilled that this national treasure will call Downtown home, adding to the robust offering of sights and attractions,” said A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress. “Its close proximity to the National Center For Civil & Human Rights and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic Site draws a meaningful parallel to city’s rich history of Civil Rights.”
The AIDS Memorial Quilt is composed of 54 tons of 12-foot by 12-foot Quilt blocks. The organization ships more than 3,000 sections — or 25 tons — around the world for displays each year. Over the past 30 years, The Quilt has been seen by more than 22 million people around the world, and has raised more than $5 million for direct services for people with HIV/AIDS. It has been displayed in its entirety on the National Mall in Washington D.C. five times – in 1987, 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2012.
The Quilt was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, and remains the largest ongoing community art project in the world. In 2005, The Quilt was declared an official American Treasure under the Save America’s Treasures Act – recognizing The Quilt as part of America’s priceless historic legacy and one that helps explain America’s past to future generations. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival marked the Quilt’s 25th anniversary in 2012, with a major display on the National Mall that anchored a program, “Creativity and Crisis: Unfolding The AIDS Memorial Quilt.” In addition, the panel for AIDS Activist Roger Lyons is currently a part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection.
The Quilt has been the subject of countless books, films, scholarly papers, articles, and theatrical, artistic and musical performances, including “Common Threads: Stories From The Quilt,” which won the Academy Award as the best feature-length documentary film of 1989.