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National AIDS Quilt display in Idaho Falls through this Saturday

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IDAHO FALLS — A display featuring twelve panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt is currently on display at The Art Museum of Eastern Idaho in Idaho Falls and will be in town through Saturday, Jan. 29.

The AIDS Quilt display came to Idaho Falls as a result of a collaboration between Breaking Boundaries and the National AIDS Memorial. The display is free to the public.

The Quilt commemorates the over 700,000 Americans who have died since the first case of AIDS was reported in 1981. It’s a visual reminder of how many lives AIDS has impacted across the country, including in Idaho.

“So many in Idaho have been touched by AIDS, and we never want to forget the great loss of life,” Breaking Boundaries Board Treasurer Kerry Martin said in a press release. “Annually, Breaking Boundaries displays 48 panels. In 2019, we celebrated our 18 year and unfortunately had to cancel the 2020 and 2021 display due to another pandemic, COVID-19. We are happy to be able to partner with The Art Museum of Eastern Idaho for this display and hope to continue to memorialize those who have been lost while we pray for a cure.”

The Quilt was created 35 years ago by gay rights activist Cleve Jones, who was inspired by a memorial he help create on a wall of the San Francisco Federal Building. He notes that this memorial, created out of placards displaying the names of people lost to the AIDS epidemic, resembled the panels of a patchwork quilt.

From tht initial seed, The Quilt has grown to over 50,000 panels with more than 110,000 names stitched into it. It weighs 54 tons, is more than 50 miles in length and is the world’s largest community-arts project.

It also holds special meaning during the times of bleakness and pandemic the country is currently experiencing.

“The issues our nation has faced in the past two years – a raging pandemic with hundreds of thousands of lives lost, social injustice, health inequity, stigma, bigotry and fear – are also the issues faced throughout four decades of the AIDS pandemic,” said John Cunningham, CEO of the National AIDS Memorial, in the press release. “The Quilt is a powerful teaching tool that shares the story of HIV/AIDS, the lives lost, and the hope, healing, activism and remembrance that it inspires.”

Having the panels in the museum has provided for an atmosphere of solemn contemplation.

“It’s really kind of sobering when you look at each of the panels and that these were individuals who were full of life at one time,” Art Museum spokeswoman Miyai Abe Griggs told EastIdahoNews.com. “It’s not totally sad because a lot of the things (represented on the panels) are things those individuals loved or did in life. So it’s a celebration of those lives.”

“I’ve seen a lot of people be more contemplative with this exhibit,” Griggs added. “They take time to really sit and think about things, which is not always the case with some of our other exhibits. I think it provides a lot of opportunities for contemplation, which is a good thing.”

The AIDS Memorial Quilt display can be seen at The Art Museum of Eastern Idaho through Saturday.

Also, The Art Museum is teaming with Breaking Boundaries for a “Virtual heART Auction.” The online event runs from Feb. 1 to Feb. 6 and offers art, jewelry, date night packages and more, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Proceeds go toward supporting The Art Museum and east Idahoans living with HIV/AIDS. Visit the museum’s website or Facebook page for more information.

AIDS quilt 2
Courtesy The Art Museum of Eastern Idaho

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