Creativity and Crisis: Unfolding the AIDS Memorial Quilt Then & Now

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”  ~Herman Melville

A project with a very special place in my heart marks its 25th anniversary this year: The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.  I was introduced to The Quilt while in college at Bowling Green State University and soon became a volunteer for the project when sections of The Quilt would be shown on campus.

Words cannot describe the amount of honor and emotion I felt to be part of this experience and how humbling it was to be surrounded by such love, sadness, loss, humor, life, grief, and celebration stitched, painted, glued, ironed on, and uniquely created on each of the 3 x 6 foot panels in memory of a loved one’s life who had died of AIDS.  It was overwhelming.

My senior year at BGSU I dedicated to volunteering and interning at a community AIDS service organization in Toledo, Ohio called David’s House Compassion that provided a continuum of services for individuals living with HIV and AIDS, including residential housing, case management, respite, home visitation, and more.  I have many special memories of spending time at David’s House (making and eating Saturday night candle light dinners), making home visits to drop off food, providing respite to family members at the hospital to stay the night with their loved one, or helping out and making some art in a support group with children whose parent had died from AIDS.  I learned so much from everyone I met at David’s House about life, death, compassion, gratitude, and respect.

There were also sad and difficult moments. Several of the women and men that I visited or spent time with throughout my work at David’s House died before I finished my internship. This experience of multiple loss was important for me to process through journaling, supervision, as well as spending one night on the floor of my small dorm room working on a fabric panel for the AIDS Memorial Quilt in memory of these seven individuals: Arnetta, Bob, Frank, Jack, John, Nancy, and Neshelle.  I then mailed my panel to the NAMES Project in the Spring of 1995 to honor, celebrate, and recognize their lives and the significant impact they each left on my life.

In the Fall of 1996, my brother and I decided to travel to Washington DC to view The Quilt displayed in its entirety at the National Mall over three days.  To my surprise on the train ride from Cleveland, the stop in Toledo (to pick up my brother) also included picking up some of the staff I knew from David’s House, as well as surviving family members who were also in route to see the display and had panels attached to the same block my panel was sewn into. There were so many people who attended this display, which stretched from one end of the Mall to the other with a sea of fabric.  Again, the visual surroundings, emotions, and sensory experience was overwhelming. It is a moment I will always remember.

In Memory of Arnetta, Bob, Frank, Jack, John, Nancy, & Neshelle

In June 2012, The Quilt was shown throughout the DC area to mark the 25th Anniversary in various institutions, centers, and organizations serving as hosts.  The Quilt has become so large, several locations were needed to accommodate the space needed to show it.  The panel I created was on display as part of Smithsonian Folklife Festival in late June.

Click on this image to view a short video introducing this event:

Creativity & Crisis: Unfolding the AIDS Memorial Quilt [VIDEO]
Beginning July 21 through July 25, The Quilt will be on display again in its entirety through rotated stages on the National Mall in Washington DC , as well as throughout 50+ venues around the DC Metro area.  For those who cannot attend this special event, this year’s anniversary also launched the application and site AIDS Quilt Touch, which allows locating panels online through keyword search of an individual’s name and will track panels as they travel to other venues for future displays.

AIDS Quilt Touch | Block #4083

I was able to search for and locate (on the first try!) the block that my panel is a part of through the AIDS Quilt Touch website, as well as discover its recent showing at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. What a helpful resource through the use of technology to connect this community together, as well as create a virtual, worldwide environment for memorializing and still much needed awareness through the power, stories, and history of The Quilt.

You can read more information about the 2012 AIDS Memorial Quilt Display and 25th Anniversary here:

Learn how to host a display of The Quilt in your community herecheck out upcoming displays for viewing, or how to contribute a panel.

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6 Degrees of Creativity On Sale Now!

I am excited to announce that The Art Therapy Alliance’s 6 Degrees of Creativity goes on sale today!  Woo hoo!

As first introduced in July, 6 Degrees of Creativity is inspired by the “Six Degrees of Separation” concept that each of us, no matter where we live in the world are only about six relationships away from one another, as well as embraces the power of social networking, the arts, and interactive creativity to making a difference through art-making, creative goodness, and community.

6 Degrees of Creativity is a 6 month on-line workshop opening October 10, 2011 and running until March 1, 2012 with 6 different workshops, offered by a group of 6 inspiring instructors from the art therapy community to explore hands-on concepts, art-making, and ideas related to themes about transformation, social change, collaboration, and using art for good.

You can now register anytime between today and December 1, 2011 & participate from anywhere in the world, anytime, and on your schedule, whether it is on your laptop, tablet, desktop, or even on the go via your mobile device!  This workshop is open to art therapists, artists, creatives, students, and those interested in art-making connected to the workshop’s theme.  Workshop content will include PDFs, video tutorials, written instruction, photos, art sharing, and on-line chats that will be available within the 6 Degrees of Creativity community. The community’s social networking component will further enhance the sharing of creative goodness among participants, offer opportunities for discussion & idea exchanging, as well as deepen connection through art-making.

6 Degrees of Creativity features a fabulous line up of instructors: Kristina Bell DiTullo, Lani Gerity, Cathy Malchiodi, Jenny Navarro, Katarina Thorsen and yours truly. Only $49 for all 6 workshops!

For more 6 Degrees of Creativity workshop and instructor details and to register, please visit: http://www.arttherapyalliance.org/6DegreesOfCreativity.html

Enjoy!  Lots of fun beginning this fall through next spring– Get ready!

Pinterest: Collecting & Organizing Happiness

21 SECRETS colleague and mixed media artist Debra Cooper recently introduced me the wonderful world of Pinterest, a social catalog site and community of virtual bulletin boards where you can organize and “pin” digital images of places, objects, people, and things you love and have interest in.  You can also follow boards and collections created by others who have styles and interests you like, as well “re-pin” images posted by community members on your own boards.  I’m already addicted!

Some of my boards

My first board was for a collection of Words.  I gathered quotes, phrases, and images through the site’s keyword search, as well as checked out what the Pinterest community and people I was following had pinned and re-pinned on some of their boards.  I also added the “Pin It” grabber to my toolbar to make it easy to get images anywhere on-line that I also wanted to collect.

As I began to create more boards, I started to notice how many of the images and objects I was pinning and curating into collections were associated with people, places, memories, and activities that make me really happy.  Lots of good stuff, good times, and good vibes. Containing all these things together in one place started to spark some kind of visual happiness.

I have also enjoyed the joyful curiousity and inspiration from looking at others’ boards and pins.  It’s been so much fun to follow Lani Gerity‘s pins and the cool finds she is collecting: art, portraits, dolls, places, and lots of chocolate!  I’ve also been keeping an eye on Debra’s boards which are full of color, design, artsy ideas, and textures.  Check them out!

Lani’s Board: Art Love
Debra’s Board: For Painted Papers

At this time, to join Pinterest you need to receive an invite. You can go to the Pinterest site to request an invite, but I am not sure if this involves some kind of wait list or what the turnaround time is to receive one. Pinterest community members can also send out a limited number of  invites as well.  If anyone is interested in receiving one of my invites (while supplies last!),  feel free to let me know in the comment/reply section of this post.