October 9-10, 1993: A Weekend at Meadow Lakes Resort
September 8-12, 1993: A Visit Home to North Carolina
Return to the Index for 1993


September 18, 1993
The AIDS Quilt Comes to Fort Worth

 

As you learned in last year's album pages, my good friend Larry Marshall and I created a panel for Grant Wagner to be included in the AIDS Quilt that has been growing in size since its inception in the late 1980s. Friends and loved ones create 4x6-foot fabric panels for individuals or multiple persons who have died as a result of the AIDS epidemic. When Larry and I created the panel, we sent it off to the Quilt in California, and some time later were informed of which larger panel (a larger panels usually consists of 8 individual panels with a border). These are then combined into even larger panels and either laid on the ground (as has happened on the Mall in Washington) or laid inside a large building, or hung from something (both of which were done in Fort Worth at the Convention Center).


On September 18th and 19th, a section of the Names Project Quilt came to Ft. Worth. I had known since early in the year that it would be there, and I had planned to go over both days. On Saturday, Fred and I went over together. He had never known Grant, nor had he been involved in the production of the panel, but he seemed genuinely interested in seeing it and the rest of the display.


This is what the display looked like. I did a mental calculation of the number of panels present and came up with a figure somewhere around 2,000. Since the Quilt now contains some 50,000 panels, you can see that it would be impossible to display all of them in the same place. The last time that was done was two years ago on the Mall in Washington, DC. There are walkways between each section so people can get close to the panels they want to see.

Established in 1987, The NAMES Project Foundation is the international NGO (non-governmental organization) that is the custodian of The AIDS Memorial Quilt, an official American treasure. The mission of the Foundation is to preserve, care for and use The AIDS Memorial Quilt to foster healing, heighten awareness, and inspire action in the age of AIDS. Specifically, The NAMES Project works to display The Quilt in multiple venues each year (this year, there were some 200 displays around the country), to conserve and care for the 20-ton tapestry and its archive, and to encourage and support the creation of new Quilt panels for the ever-evolving handmade memorial.

I cannot say how many panels were in the Quilt in late 1993; what I can say is how big the Quilt is as of 2016- this information coming from the Quilt's website at http://www.aidsquilt.org/. Currently, it is composed of more than 48,000 panels dedicated to more than 94,000 individuals. The whole Quilt weighs more than 54 tons. The AIDS Memorial Quilt is the premier symbol of the AIDS pandemic, our greatest HIV prevention education tool and the largest ongoing piece of community folk art in the world.


Here is Grant's panel in the Names Project Quilt; it is the panel just above the lower right-hand corner panel in this particular block. It has the sailboat, mountains in the background and a border made up of official nautical signal flags. Hidden in the sequence of signal flags is the message "To Grant: Our love forever. Ron and Larry".

Each block of the Quilt usually contains 8 panels, and four such blocks are temporarily attached together into a section. Since the Quilt is so large now that no one venue can show it all (the last time this was done was on the National Mall in Washington), the Foundation has tried to arrange the sections so that people from the same area of the country are grouped together. That way, when there are displays, the Foundation can try to ensure that as many sections as possible that contain panels for people in a local area can be shipped to that particular display. Many, but not all, of the panels in this 32-panel section were from North Texas, most from the Ft. Worth and Dallas areas. I should find out more about Charles Oldham (the yellow panel) and John Oldham (the blue one), since Grant's panel will always be between them.

Throughout its 25-year history, The Quilt has been used to fight prejudice, raise awareness and funding, and as a means to link hands with the global community in the fight against AIDS. Whether The Quilt is displayed as a single section in an elementary school or hundreds of sections on the National Mall in Washington, it provides balm for the painful wounds of grief, pours oil into the waters made turbulent by controversy, opens eyes that refuse to see and enlists every person who experiences it to play a role in stopping the pandemic.


Here is another view of the inside of the Convention Center and many of the panel sections and blocks that were on display. The display is an emotional experience for everyone who visits, and especially so for those who have come to see panels that they themselves made or which were made for friends or loved ones of theirs.

I found it interesting that the Quilt puts boxes of Kleenex all around the floor of the center- at least one or two for each section, and I saw lots of folks (myself included) avail themselves of them. There are so many memories wrapped up in the various panels that it is tough to look at even the panel of a complete stranger and not be touched.

The display is being held in the Amon Carter exhibition hall of the Fort Worth Convention Center. The complex is near the Fort Worth Fairgrounds. This is also the place where both the IMAX theater and the Kimball Art Museum are located.

I was glad that Fred came with me; he was very nice to do that, and I think that he found the experience a moving one. Of course, Joe Wells is one of his very best friends, and he has already had some illnesses, so I imagine that Fred was thinking ahead to the time when a panel for Joe might be created. I didn't inquire about that, preferring to leave Fred's thoughts about that private. (I am very happy to be able to say that today, twenty-three years after our visit here, Joe Wells is doing fine- much better, in fact, than he was doing this year or in the five or so years ahead. Advances in treatment have meant that AIDS patients are living longer and longer, and in fact I currently have a quite a few friends who can now treat their illness not as being terrminal but as being as manageable as, say, diabetes.

After going to the display, Fred and I went to the Arboretum, and then went to have dinner and then back to Dallas.

Larry could not come over on Saturday, so on Sunday we stopped by his house to pick him up and we came over here again. I wanted to come both days. So today, Larry is with me, and he has a chance to see Grant's panel in the Quilt for the first time.

I really talked enough about the Quilt above, so for today, here are the additional pictures I took:


Grant's Panel in the Names Project Quilt

 


Me Beside Grant's Panel

I regret that I did not have my flash with me, and the light was not very good.


Larry and Grant's Panel in the Names Project Quilt

I could not have created the panel without Larry's help; we both took great comfort in doing it together.


Larry and I Beside Grant's Panel

I should have had Fred take this picture, but another visitor said that she would do it. She did not get Grant's entire panel in, which, sadly, is what I would have wanted.


At the Names Project Quilt

There were panels of many famous people at this display in addition to many local residents. We saw panels for Rock Hudson, Tony Perkins and Liberace, to name just a few. I think that these panels probably travel to many of the displays, as many people knew these men.


The Lower Left Corner of Grant's Block

I just wanted to show the variety of colors and artwork that many of the panels contain. Grant was never one for over-decoration (except for his acquisition of blue and white china of various kinds) so Larry and I wanted to keep his panel as simple as we could.

As it was yesterday, today was another emotional experience, particularly since my co-creator Larry was along. Larry was perhaps Grant's best friend next to me, and he was very much affected by Grant's passing.

You can use the links below to continue to another photo album page.


October 9-10, 1993: A Weekend at Meadow Lakes Resort
September 8-12, 1993: A Visit Home to North Carolina
Return to the Index for 1993