It’s the world’s biggest community art project. Laid out fully, it would stretch 50 miles. It’s a quilt, comprised of 48,000 individual panels, sewn by 100,000 people.
But it has a backstory full of tragedy. Each six by three foot panel of the AIDS Memorial Quilt was contributed by a friend or family member of someone who died of the disease.
The project is celebrating its 25th anniversary this summer and serves as a history of America’s battle with AIDS. The quilt is now too large to be displayed in full. So parts of it will hang in hundreds of community centers across the country. A large portion of the quilt is currently on display in the National Mall as part of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. It'll be there till Sunday.
Julie Rhoad is president and CEO of the NAMES Project Foundation, custodians of the quilt. Kelly Rivera Hart is a volunteer for the project in San Francisco and recently contributed a panel as tribute to a late friend.