AIDS Quilt to be Displayed at College

AIDS Quilt to be Displayed at College


The AIDS Memorial Quilt, a 10-year-old project to put a human face on a dreaded disease, will be on display at SUNY Cortland from Monday, Oct. 3, until Friday, Oct. 7.

The quilt can be viewed in the Corey Union Function Room from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. from Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. until noon on Friday. The quilt exhibition and related events are free and open to the public.

Families and friends of AIDS victims designed each of the quilt’s 344 panels, which commemorate and memorialize a life lost to the disease that weakens human immune system.

The sections of the quilt that will be on display are provided by the NAMES Project Syracuse from Syracuse, N.Y. The group, once affiliated with the national organization that sponsors the quilt, branched off to specifically help AIDS victims in Central New York.

“When they first did that, Cortland was the first to exhibit the quilt, which is something I’m very proud of,” said Catherine Smith, a health educator in SUNY Cortland’s Health Promotion Office. “Then, it had 32 panels. Now, roughly ten years later, we have 344 panels. It’s going to more than fill the Function Room.”

SUNY Cortland students, faculty and staff, along with local community members, contributed some of the quilt sections that will be on display. The College created at least two of the big quilt sections to represent people from the Central New York area who have died from AIDS.

The AIDS Quilt is much more than just a memorial to commemorate those who have died from the disease. The quilt is “a way to raise awareness concerning HIV/AIDS, which is actually a world pandemic,” Smith said.

“It’s easy to lose sight of this because people in the U.S., especially, seem to be managing (AIDS) with medication, but if we were in a place like Africa it would be right in your face,” she said. 

Christopher Kaigh, an intern in the Health Promotion Office, pointed out that it is easy for college students to forget about the disease, especially because some high-end medications mask its effects.

“Unless someone is personally affected by (AIDS) here, they wouldn’t think about it too much,” Kaigh said.

Essentially, the quilt is trying to bring awareness to the SUNY Cortland campus.

“The AIDS Quilt, for me, is a sacred display,” Smith said.

Each panel measures three feet by six feet, the same size of a coffin or cemetery plot, Smith said.

“It almost feels like walking through a cemetery in the sense that it’s like sacred ground,” she said. “But each of those panels is a celebration of the life of the people. You can see all the signs of the life. If the person loved music, you can see a whole piano keyboard. If it was a child who died, there would be a teddy bear. You see what they enjoyed doing in life and the impact they had, and you know these people lived life to the fullest.”

Additionally, while the quilt is on display the Southern Tier AIDS Program will offer a presentation titled “Living With HIV” at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 5, in the Corey Union Exhibition Lounge. An individual who has HIV will offer a personal story on living daily with this disease. The event is part of the College’s Wellness Wednesday series is presented by the Health Promotion Office.

Sponsors for the event include the President’s Office, the Vice President for Student Affairs’ Office, the Health Promotion/Student Development Office, the Multicultural Life and Diversity Office, the AIDS Prevention and Awareness Club, Black Student Union, Women of Color, Cortland Against All Rape, Hillel, La Familia Latina, Eta Sigma Gamma and the Health Club.

For more information, contact Smith at or 607-753-2066.