Originally created 11/17/00

University exhibits AIDS Quilt



AIKEN - The AIDS Quilt, a national memorial to victims of the AIDS epidemic, is on display at the University of South Carolina Aiken campus.

The quilt was started in 1987 and has grown to 773,820 feet, containing more than 44,000 3-by-6-foot panels.

The size of the quilt makes it impractical to display as a whole.

Kathy Simmons, an administrative specialist in the School of Nursing and an organizer of the USC Aiken exhibition, said the local display consists of four panels and 32 blocks.

Ms. Simmons said the quilt has attracted a steady stream of visitors since the exhibition opened Wednesday. It will be on display at the Etherredge Center through Sunday.

Each of the panels is a handmade memorial to a person who has died of AIDS.

Ms. Simmons said the reaction visitors have to the AIDS Quilt is similar to the reaction she witnessed while visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial. "When I was at Pearl Harbor, even little kids were quiet, and I'll never forget it ... ," she said. "There's something about it that just affects people. They're quiet; they're contemplative; they read. Sometimes they cry. Sometimes they walk out and come back."

The quilt has four panels facing a central area where visitors can view the designs.

Ms. Simmons said names of AIDS victims are read during the exhibition, and visitors can take turns reading them. "It's very moving when people walk in and hear that as they are looking - just constant names being read."

One of the panels memorializes the brother of a local resident, Ms. Simmons said. "It's very special to have that area connection."

The college has a panel that visitors can sign. It will be the third one the school will keep after visits by the AIDS Quilt.

Ms. Simmons said she made a panel to memorialize one of her friends.

"I want people to know it's not hard to make a panel for anyone, and when the display is over I'll send it to San Francisco to be added to the entire quilt."

Reach Rick Green at (803) 279-6895.