C.U.R.E. announces huge AIDS Quilt display for 2011

Display in Plano will be largest in more than a decade, with at least 500 panels included, organizers say

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

TIME TO REMEMBER | Visitors walk through a display of panels from the NAMES Project Quilt exhibited Wednesday, Dec. 1, at the Interfaith Peace Chapel as part of a World AIDS Day event. Next September, C.U.R.E. will bring more than 500 Quilt panels to Plano for the largest display in a decade. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

PLANO — C.U.R.E. will bring at least 500 panels of the Names Project’s AIDS Memorial Quilt to the Dallas Convention Center next September for the largest display since the entire Quilt was shown on the Mall in Washington, D.C. in 1996, according to C.U.R.E. leaders.

The Plano-based group made the announcement at their World AIDS Day event at Event1013 in Plano, where they displayed 13 blocks of the Quilt. They placed other panels at several other corporate headquarters located in Plano.

C.U.R.E. President and founder Rosemarie Odom said that one of those companies, Pepsico, has signed to be the lead sponsor of the Quilt display next year.

She said they are tentatively set to display the panels in Exhibit Hall F of the Convention Center from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2.

Tyler Sweatman is the event director. He said that the dates were chosen to correspond with LifeWalk. He’s hoping Lone Star Ride, which will take place the weekend before the event, will also participate.

“We’d love LifeWalk to walk right through the Convention Center,” said Odom.

Sweatman said that they will be requesting specific panels and will be taking requests from the community. He said it would be easier to get more of the requested panels in September than around next year’s World AIDS Day.

Sweatman said he was living in San Francisco in 1987 when Cleve Jones started the project. He watched the sewing going on in a little shop on Castro Street to memorialize friends who had died of AIDS.

Sweatman said he is amazed at how much the Quilt grew in just a few years.

The Quilt now has 91,000 names representing 17.5 percent of those who have died of AIDS in the United States. The Quilt was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and, at 1,293,300 square feet, is the largest piece of folk art ever produced. It weighs 54 tons.

Each panel is three feet by six feet, the size of a coffin. Eight panels are sewn together to form a block.  Several years ago, the Quilt moved from its original home in San Francisco to Atlanta. Sweatman said he expects the Quilt eventually to be housed in the Smithsonian.

The first day of the 2011 Quilt display is a Friday, and Sweatman said he hopes school groups from around North Texas as well as Oklahoma and Arkansas will come to see the display.

“Our goal is AIDS education,” he said.

To encourage the most people to see the Quilt, admission will be free. But staging the event will be costly. The group, which has non-profit status, is looking for additional sponsors and donations.

In addition to the cost of shipping the Quilt back and forth from Atlanta, there is the rental of the Convention Center, advertising, lighting and sound equipment.

During large displays, the names of persons who have died of AIDS are continuously read.

Volunteers are needed as Quilt monitors. Sweatman said he would especially like people who made any of the quilt panels or those who knew the people represented on the panels to talk about who they were.

Bono’s group ONE will coordinate volunteers. Sweatman said details are being worked out and will have more information about that and about volunteer opportunities soon.

Odom was excited about the opportunity to present such a large piece of the Quilt in Dallas. She became emotional standing in front of one of the 13 blocks hanging in Plano on World AIDS Day and warned about what an emotional experience the large display in September would be.

“I don’t want anyone to walk away from one of our events feeling good,” she said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens