The Blanket

1987-1996: The Quilt

The Harlem AIDS Blanket project is reviving a symbol from the 1980s: The AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Begun in 1987 in San Francisco, CA, the original AIDS Memorial Quilt was conceived as a unique representation of how HIV/AIDS affected more than just the people diagnosed withthe disease. As it traveled the country, people who had little personal contact with the disease could get a sense of what HIV/AIDS was doing to other members of this country. At its largest, the original quilt was composed of over 44,000 individual squares. The entire display was large enough to cover the entire National Mall in Washington, D.C. This was the last time the quilt was displayed as a complete piece. That was in 1996.

Since then, pieces of the AIDS Memorial Quilt have been on display around the country and the world. The displays continue to raise awareness of the disease and funding for medical efforts to find a cure. One of the most successful educational awareness programs of all time, the AIDS Memorial Quilt remains the largest community art project ever undertaken. Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, the AIDS Quilt reminds us that diseases like HIV/AIDS touch everyone, and that even the smallest contribution can become something huge.

2010: The Blanket

Despite the success of the original AIDS Memorial Quilt, HIV/AIDS continues to affect millions of people in America and around the world. Here in New York City, a disproportionate number of those people reside in the Harlem area. Beginning in 2010 the Harlem AIDS Blanket project, part of the AmeriCorps community fellowships project out of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Teachers College, Columbia University is reviving the AIDS Memorial Quilt ideal.

The new Blanket is part of a comprehensive educational program that focuses on the impact HIV/AIDS has on the Harlem community, what individuals can do to help their community, information for getting tested, and resources for those who are living with the disease. These educational workshops also include guided time for participants to create their own blanket “patch” out of construction paper and magazine collage materials. This artistic element gives individuals a chance to express how HIV/AIDS has affected their lives.

The individual pieces are collected, scanned, uploaded onto this site, and then incorporated into the AIDS Blanket. In June, we will host a community event at the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building in African Square to display the finished Blanket. Everyone is invited to come out, see the Blanket, eat some food, and pick up some information on HIV/AIDS!

HIV/AIDS remains a serious problem. The AIDS Blanket serves as a reminder that the disease has not gone away. It symbolizes how people can come together and make something greater than their individual selves. It demonstrates the importance of a community supporting itself and those who live there. The AIDS Blanket inspires, educates, and motivates. We hope that you will get involved!

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