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December 22, 2009
CIA students volunteered to help local residents make panels commemorating loved ones for the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
CIA students spent the past few months experiencing firsthand how artists can shape the perception of important social issues in their community. Through the AIDS Memorial Quilt, brought to Cleveland this month by The Cleveland Institute of Art and MetroHealth, students in the Institute’s fiber and material studies program were able to lend their talents to a powerful social tool.
In early December, juniors Julia Chepke (pictured) and Ivy Garrigan led a group of more than ten student and alumni volunteers who helped at two quilt panel-making workshops for local families who have lost loved ones to AIDS. Serving as creative directors and technical assistants, the volunteers guided workshop participants through the process of depicting their emotional tributes on fabric.
The newly-created panels will be added to the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which is comprised of more than 40,000 three-by-six-foot panels that memorialize the lives of people lost to AIDS. Portions of the quilt were on view at MetroHealth during “Art, Activism & AIDS,” a series of events centering around the display.
The series began earlier this year when MetroHealth approached the Institute with the idea of partnering to host the Quilt’s appearance in Cleveland. Fiber and material studies instructor Sara Rabinowitz seized the opportunity to weave the study of the artist’s role in community service throughout her fall curriculum.
“The collaboration between CIA and MetroHealth, through the NAMES project, was an exciting opportunity for students to consider the role of the artist in society as well as the relationship between art making and community service,” Rabinowitz said.
Students kicked off the semester by watching Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (1990), an Academy Award-winning documentary that changed America’s perception of the AIDS crisis by telling the moving stories of many of the people remembered in the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Activist Gil Kudrin spoke afterward about AIDS awareness and his work at Nightsweats and T-cells, a politically aware nonprofit design shop owned and operated by people living with HIV/AIDS.
“It was good to show the film before Gil’s lecture and the rest of the series,” said Garrigan. “We got not only the education part of it, but the whole emotional experience. Everyone in the audience was crying by the end.”
For an even more personal look at the effect of AIDS on the community, the Institute hosted a dinner where students spoke with two young Clevelanders who live with AIDS. “That was really important for us,” said Chepke. “It was like an intimate conversation where we got to hear from people our own age who were going through this struggle. And it made us even more aware of how this is an ongoing issue, not just an epidemic that happened when we were really little.”
Sponsors of the series from the Institute included the Office of Student Life, the Office of Institutional Advancement, the Fiber Club and the Student Life Committee.
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