PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In the Mark Segal ballroom of the William Way LGBT Community Center, ornate hand-made panels are hanging from the ceiling and some are stretched out on the ground.
The panels are all part of what is described as the “largest ongoing piece of community folk art in the world,” the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.
The panels will soon be on display in Northeast Philadelphia for the first time at Tacony Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, during a free event Friday.
“We want to celebrate public art. We want to bring public arts to our neighborhoods and we certainly have folks who have been affected,” Troy Everwine of the Philadelphia Arts Collective said.
Each panel measures is about the average size of a human grave and each one represents a person who has died of AIDS.
The panels are made by friends and family.
“No two panels are alike and the quilt unfortunately can never be viewed in its entirety because there is no place large enough to hold it,” Everwine said.
Even these few panels cannot help but overwhelm you with the weight of challenge this epidemic has caused the country throughout the years, with the different races, genders, occupations and ages of people that it impacts.
“When we think of each of these graveside panels as a human being and you look at the birth and death dates and see how young and vibrant the folks who were memorialized here, there is no way not to feel that,” Everwine said.
The 14 panels of the quilt will be on display at the Tacony Branch on Friday, a powerful tribute and tool to get people to keep talking and get tested.
“We have all of the tools we need to get to zero, zero stigma, zero new infections and zero deaths but we have to have the will to do it,” AIDS Memorial Quilt co-sponsor Robb Reichard said.