Smithsonian Folklife Festival to Feature Program on the AIDS Memorial Quilt

June 20, 2012
News Release
Photo courtesy of The NAMES Project Foundation

With the introduction of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in 1987, The Names Project Foundation redefined the tradition of quilt-making in response to contemporary circumstances. Through the creation of panels for the quilt, individuals and communities have come together to find support and strength, remember loved ones, grieve and engage in dialogues for change.

The 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the AIDS Memorial Quilt with the program “Creativity and Crisis: Unfolding The AIDS Memorial Quilt.” The program will use the quilt as its anchor to explore the community crafts and performances that developed during the past 30 years in response to the devastating effects of HIV and AIDS. The program will celebrate the quilt’s artistry, and Festival visitors can learn about innovative and resourceful ways communities educate and cope with one of the most complex epidemics in modern history. “Creativity and Crisis: Unfolding The AIDS Memorial Quilt” is produced in partnership with The Names Project Foundation.

The Festival will be held Wednesday, June 27, through Sunday, July 1, and Wednesday, July 4, through Sunday, July 8, outdoors on the National Mall between Seventh and 14th streets. All events are free. Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day with special evening events such as concerts and dance parties beginning at 6 p.m. The Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service.

“‘Creativity and Crisis: Unfolding The AIDS Memorial Quilt’ will show Festival audiences how the arts—when created for and by communities—can be a tool for social, cultural and economic awareness and change,” said Program Curator Arlene Reiniger. “Through craft demonstrations, theater, dance and musical performances, interactive discussions and other activities, the program will highlight creative responses by individuals and communities to deal with this pandemic.”

“Throughout its history, the quilt has been used as a means to link hands with the global community,” said Julie Rhoad, president and CEO of The Names Project Foundation. “The quilt has helped to fight prejudice and raise awareness, and it has been an effective tool in HIV/AIDS education and prevention. The Folklife Festival will provide new opportunities for the public to explore, celebrate and participate in the creativity and artistic advocacy associated with the quilt and the AIDS epidemic.”

At the Festival, visitors will have the opportunity to help make panels that will be incorporated into the quilt, to tell their own stories and to take part in rituals such as the reading of names and using the “lotus fold” to display and pack the quilt each day. The program will feature performances by artists in the theater, design and music industries who have been affected by HIV and AIDS. Festival visitors also will see how people are using traditional knowledge, skills and expression to create vibrant AIDS-themed art to raise awareness about the disease.

About the Festival

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, honors tradition bearers from across the United States and around the world. With approximately 1 million visitors each year, the Festival unites performers and visitors in the nation’s capital to celebrate the diversity of cultural traditions. It is produced by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The Festival’s website is

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