AIDS Memorial Quilt coming

700 panels of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt will be coming to Williams Apr. 18-20, showcased in Chandler Athletic Center. Quilting bees will be held in Williamstown during February so that the community can contribute to the memorial in the name of an individual victim or a group.

“It [bringing the AIDS quilt to Williamstown] was an idea begun two years ago among members of the BiGala alumni group,” Victor Paquette said. Paquette is in charge of handling the display at Williams.

He planned the display for the April weekend because it “will coincide with BiGala’s weekend reunion as well as Williams’ Family Weekend.”

The NAMES Project Foundation began the quilt in 1987 to inform visitors about the disease and offer a creative outlet for those left behind to express their grief. Currently weighing more than 50 tons, it consists of more than 40,000 panels. The quilt has only been displayed in its entirety on the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C.

President of the College Harry C. Payne said the quilt display will serve “as a symbol of our collective awareness of the continuing scourge of the AIDS epidemic and as an opportunity for remembrance and healing as well as sympathy and support for members of our community who are, or have been, afflicted.”

Peggy Diggs, a Lecturer in Art at Williams, is designing a panel in honor of people from the Williams community who have died because of AIDS. She is also organizing the public quilting bees for people in the community who would like to contribute directly to the memorial. “We hope to provide quilters at whatever level of ability the experience of contributing to this very powerful work of art,” she said.

There will be quilting bees at the First Congregational Church on Feb. 11 and 23 from 7-9 pm. Contributors can bring their own materials or use the materials provided.

“The dynamic nature of the quilt is what makes it interesting,” Matt Sly ‘99 said. “It’s a living monument,” Liz Wall ‘01 noted, adding “Everyone who has lost someone can have a part of it.”

There are currently 22.6 million people estimated to be inflicted with HIV/AIDS. In 1996, 1.5 million people died of AIDS, including 350,000 children. The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt display gives the Williams community a chance to express grief and offer support.

It is possible to receive the name of an AIDS victim from Berkshire AIDS Coalition or make a donation by calling 413-442-1506. To receive more information on the quilting bees or donate supplies, call Peggy Diggs at 597-3745.