Quilts Making a Difference: Folk Expression in the Face of Crisis

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Folklife is what identifies a living culture: It goes beyond traditions of specific ethnic groups to embrace foodways, games, created landscapes and even material cultural practices that are by-products of activism. In this 25th anniversary year of the AIDS WALK nationally, TMY will reflect on the traditions of AIDS activism (including the Red Ribbon and the NAMES Quilt Project) through exhibits, talking stages, a guest lecture by the foremost expert on AIDS lore and inclusion of the Tucson AIDS walk in TMY’s Sunday Festival footprint.

AIDS Walk Director Monique Vallery from Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation shows TMY Curator Peggy Hazard one of the local quilts made to commemorate the memory of someone who died from AIDS. Local quilts as well as select samples from the national NAMES Project will be on display at TMY this year.
AIDS Walk Director Monique Vallery from Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation shows TMY Curator Peggy Hazard one of the local quilts made to commemorate the memory of someone who died from AIDS. Local quilts as well as select samples from the national NAMES Project will be on display at TMY this year.

What is planned: A mirroring of the Smithsonian American Folklife Festival’s 2012 “Crisis and Creativity” theme to include an expanded interactive area and display focusing on the patchwork quilt as a unique microcosm of American life. The area will offer the public hands-on quilt making demonstrations, sewing circles, and showcase of quilts done in the tradition of raising social awareness around multiple issues. Diane Goldstein – folklorist, Professor and Chair of the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University and Chair of the American Folklore Society – will guest lecture. Dr. Goldstein is author of “Once Upon a Virus,” a book exploring AIDS related rumors, superstitions, and tall tales. A talking stage nearby the Festival’s exhibit will facilitate stories, testimonies, and conversations among AIDS prevention advocates and the general public all weekend long.

The TMY curatorial team, including Dr. Maribel Alvarez and Peggy Hazard, is working with quilters in Tucson and Southern Arizona to produce the Quilts Making a Difference exhibit, which will feature traditional and contemporary quilters with traditional quilters at the tables in the exhibit area. Included in the TMY exhibit will be quilts made to promote social awareness or financially support an organization with a social mission. Quilts made to raise funds for breast cancer assistance and a quilt stitched to document the names of migrants who died crossing the border into Southern Arizona will be exhibited. Also on display will be Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation panels. The national NAMES quilt panel project began in 1987 as a social movement to increase awareness of the AIDS crisis and now includes about 100,000 panels of memory and testament to the impact of the epidemic.

The Tucson chapter of NLAAD (National Latino AIDS Awareness Day), also celebrating its 20th anniversary nationally in 2012, will participate, staging a series of Latino-themed performances, a memory vigil, story-telling and other activities throughout the Festival weekend.

The Tucson AIDS Walk will begin on Sunday morning, October 14, at Jacome Plaza, and traverse the Festival, culminating with the ritual unfolding and display of 10 national and 10 local NAMES Quilt panels.

Registration for the walk is now open. For information, visit http://www.saaf.org/.

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