AIDS Memorial Quilt exhibit and World AIDS Day commemoration

From a Western North Carolina AIDS Project press release:

AIDS Memorial Quilt exhibit and World AIDS Day commemoration

Asheville, NC (November 14, 2014) – On Sunday, November 23rd a team of volunteers from the Western North Carolina AIDS Project will gather at the Renaissance Hotel, downtown Asheville, to assemble a special exhibit of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The free exhibit entitled A Celebration of Lives will feature 160 panels stitched together on 20 blocks of the Quilt, opening Monday, November 24, 10:00am and running through December 1, World AIDS Day.   This is the largest exhibit of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in the state of North Carolina.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt, managed by the NAMES Project Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia, is now comprised of more than 48,000 individual 3 x 6 foot panels, each one commemorating the life of someone who has died of AIDS. These panels come from every state in the nation, every corner of the globe and they have been sewn by hundreds of thousands of friends, family members, partners, and lovers into this epic memorial, the largest piece of ongoing community art in the world.

In a war against a disease that has no cure, The AIDS Memorial Quilt is a potent tool to educate the community about the lethal threat of AIDS. By revealing the humanity behind the statistics, The AIDS Memorial Quilt teaches compassion and triumphs over stigma and ignorance.

Each year WNCAP reaches out to the WNC community, providing an opportunity for residents to request specific panels. Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, partners and friends submitted panel requests to the agency for this year’s exhibit. WNCAP also hosts a Quilting Group, assisting local residents in creating panels honoring their loved ones who have died of AIDS. This year’s exhibit will include three newly made panels by the WNCAP Quilting Group.

Other featured panels include a quilt remembering Ryan White (1971-1990), the teenager from Kokomo, Indiana, who contracted HIV at age 13 through blood-based products for hemophilia.  White was banned from attending school when his status was found out by local officials under the misinformed fear that he might infect other children.  Ryan became a beacon for AIDS activism in the late 80’s and began to show the public that AIDS was not a “gay disease”.  In 1990, the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act was passed.  This legislation has provided treatment, care, and access to resources for millions of Americans including North Carolinians living with HIV and AIDS.  Also included in in this year’s exhibit is a panel for Freddie Mercury (1946-1991), a British singer-songwriter, and producer, best known as the lead vocalist and lyricist of the rock band Queen.  There will also be a panel remembering Marty Prairie, (1958-2001), Oglala Lakota Sioux, and local AIDS activist.  A long-term survivor of AIDS, Prairie died in 2001, but fought tirelessly against stigma and discrimination and for a better life for people with HIV/AIDS, and especially LGBT people of color, drug users, and children in poverty, and Native Americans everywhere.  Together with Michael Harney he also co-founded the Needle Exchange Program of Asheville, (NEPA).

“Each year when we bring the Quilts to Asheville, it is our desire to create an exhibit to foster healing for the families and friends who have lost loved ones to AIDS and at the same time bring the community together with compassion and support to recommit to the fight against AIDS right here in Western North Carolina and around the globe. World AIDS Day is all about solidarity” states Pam Siekman, WNCAP’s Chairperson for World AIDS Day. In addition to experiencing the power of the Quilts, attendees will also have an opportunity to view films such as the Academy Award Winner Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, The Normal Heart starring Mark Ruffalo, and Milk, starring Sean Penn as Harvey Milk.

Hours of the exhibit are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. November 24 – December 1 (closed Thanksgiving day). Volunteers will be on site throughout the week to answer questions about the Quilts, appointments can be made for age appropriate HIV education and personalized tours by contacting Jesse at the WNCAP office, 828-252-7489. HIV and AID educational materials will be available as well as information from other community partners such as Youth Outright, Loving Food Resources, (RED), Queer Youth Theatre Project and Young Voices.

There will be a special Opening Night Reception on Monday November 24th 6 – 8pm, featuring music by classical guitarist James Barr, the acclaimed a capella singing group Pastyme, and a very special keynote message by Mike Smith, co-founder of the Quilts and the NAMES Project Foundation. Mike served as managing director of the NAMES Project Foundation from 1987 – 1989. During Mike’s tenure the Quilt grew from an idea to more than 15,000 memorial panels in 20 countries. He managed the first two national tours in 1988 and 1989 and produced the first three displays in Washington DC in 1987, 1988, and 1989. In 1989 he and Cleve Jones and the NAMES Project Foundation were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. “We are thrilled to have Mike here as part of our opening night reception” says Siekman.

On World AIDS Day, Monday, December 1st 7:00 – 9:00 pm there will be a special musical tribute featuring Asheville’s own Kat Williams.   Kat Williams will bring her magic and grace to the stage surrounded by the Quilts and perform a special concert for WNCAP. This is the third year that Williams has supported WNCAP on World AIDS Day by lending her voice to the fight against AIDS. This year the theme A Celebration of Lives will come to life with Kat’s performance, as well as pose a challenge to all to recommit to the fight against AIDS. Also joining Kat Williams on stage will be guitarist & vocalist “Lyric” (Leeda Jones) and Cantaria, The Gay Men’s Chorus of Asheville.

WNCAP’s 2014 Quilt Exhibit and World AIDS Day Commemoration is sponsored by the Renaissance Hotel of Asheville, Greiner, Ezell & Associates, Design1, and Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. Bank of America has established a two-year, $10 million partnership with (RED), the global HIV/AIDS fundraising organization, and the rock group U2, to help deliver the first AIDS-free generation.

Please join WNCAP at the special events planned for this important week of awareness and also thank the generous sponsors who made this possible.

All events are free of charge and open to the public, visit for additional details or contact the WNCAP office at 828-252-7489.

About Michael McDonald
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