Back to top

NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt display, Minneapolis

  • Cite
  • Share
  • Correct
  • Print
Color image of a quilt panel memorializing 212 Minnesotans who had died of AIDS, 1988.

Quilt panel memorializing 212 Minnesotans who died of AIDS, 1988. Panel made by Leah Hassett, Barb Sarapas, and many others. The photograph is from the Minnesota Names Quilt Project Report manuscript collection held at the Minnesota Historical Society.

Begun in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco in 1987, the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt grew into a nationwide community art project memorializing those who had been killed by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Lovers, families, and friends of people who had died sewed quilt panels; others created them for individuals they had never met. In 1988, the quilt embarked on a national twenty-city tour and arrived at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis on July 16.

In 1988, there was little mainstream political will to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which had been first identified in 1981. Though it affected all people, HIV/AIDS had been stigmatized as a disease associated only with gay men and drug users. NAMES Project director Cleve Jones, a leader of the gay rights movement and a human rights activist, stated that the objective of the quilt was not only to combat HIV/AIDS, but to fight the “ignorance, hysteria, and bigotry” surrounding the disease.

A Minnesota NAMES Project committee formed in Minneapolis to coordinate the display of the quilt at the Metrodome. It secured funding and support from Minnesota businesses, organizations, and individuals. On June 25, ten local community centers, hospitals, churches, and schools held workshops for creating and stitching panels.

In early July, the committee began collecting finished quilt panels. Every panel was unique, and poetry, written remembrances, and biographical information accompanied many of them. These stories had already been collected into a volume in order to preserve them. Organizers held fundraising events at gay bars and nightclubs—the Y’all Come Back Saloon and the Gay ‘90s in Minneapolis and Rumours in St. Paul.

Over 1,000 volunteers worked at the Metrodome on July 16 and 17. They dressed in all white and wore color-coded bandanas representing the tasks they had been assigned. Some helped unfold twelve-by-twelve-foot quilt blocks, each made up of eight panels that displayed the names of individuals who had died of HIV/AIDS. The blocks were assembled into groups of four and laid out with pathways so the public could walk among them. In total, 109 twenty-four-by-twenty-four-foot squares were displayed, representing 3,488 people.

The entire NAMES quilt represented the 36,864 people who had died of HIV/AIDS since the epidemic had begun. Weighing more than 11,000 pounds and larger than four football fields, it was one of the biggest public art displays in state history and the largest-ever indoor display of the quilt. A brochure for the event stated that the quilt was “a celebration of life and a way to unlock grief.”

Among the quilt were eighty-one panels memorializing hundreds of Minnesotans. A panel at the center of the display was reserved for visitors to add names of their own. On July 16, local officials, religious leaders, physicians, and community members read the names on the quilt during a public ceremony. State Senator Allan Spear and State Representatives Lee Greenfield and Bruce Vento attended. Minnesotans who had created quilt panels were specifically acknowledged.

On July 17, public viewing of the quilt continued; in the evening the local and national NAMES committees made their closing remarks. Regional panels were officially presented to the National Committee. At eight o’clock in the evening, the quilt display closed.

Other events were held in conjunction with the display. On the evening of July 16 and in the afternoon of July 17, the Magic Circle Ensemble presented “Safe Sex” at the Pillsbury House to benefit the Minnesota AIDS Project. Beginning at ten o’clock on the evening of July 16, an all-night HIV/AIDS vigil was held at Metropolitan Mt. Sinai Medical Center Chapel. At noon on July 17, the AIDS Film Project held a fundraiser at the Uptown Theater.

All of the money raised during the events supported the display of the quilt and HIV/AIDS services in Minnesota. In the following months, community gatherings were held in Minneapolis to thank volunteers and help people stay engaged in the cause. The Minnesota panels and remembrances traveled with the quilt as it continued on its tour, which culminated in a display on the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C.

  • Cite
  • Share
  • Correct
  • Print
© Minnesota Historical Society
  • Bibliography
  • Related Resources

“10 Quilting Sites Around Town June 25.” Minneapolis GLC Voice, June 20, 1988.
http://reflections.mndigital.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16022coll2/id/37271/rec/192

“AIDS Memorial Quilt Comes to Minnesota July 15–17.” Minneapolis GLC Voice, July 5, 1988.
http://reflections.mndigital.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16022coll2/id/37291/rec/193

“Bruce Brockway, Pianist, Sire of Gay Press in MN, Police Reporter, Friend of Refugees Dies of AIDS.” Minneapolis GLC Voice, September 4, 1984.
http://reflections.mndigital.org/cdm/ref/collection/p16022coll2/id/35089

Cleve Jones. About Cleve.
http://www.clevejones.com/about-cleve/

The NAMES Project Foundation. The AIDS Memorial Quilt.
http://www.aidsquilt.org/about/the-aids-memorial-quilt

“Names of AIDS Victims Broadcast at Metrodome.” Minneapolis GLC Voice, July 18, 1988.
http://reflections.mndigital.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16022coll2/id/37307/rec/194

P2685
Minnesota NAMES Quilt Project report, undated, 1993, 1996
Manuscript Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: The collection contains a remembrance volume with photographs of each of the eighty-one Minnesota quilt panels accompanied by additional information.

The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt: Minnesota Tour ’88; July 16, 17 Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minnesota. [Minneapolis: The NAMES Project, 1988].

The NAMES Project: National Tour, 1988. [San Francisco: The NAMES Project, 1988].

Tretter: 289
NAMES Project records (AIDS Quilt), 1987–1992
Manuscript Collection, Archives and Special Collections, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Description: The NAMES Project Records contain organizational documentation concerning the AIDS quilt and its premier national tour in 1988.
http://archives.lib.umn.edu/repositories/13/resources/2082

Simone, Renata, et al. The Age of AIDS. [Alexandria, VA:] PBS Video, 2006.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/aids/

Van Cleve, Stewart. Land of 10,000 Loves: A History of Queer Minnesota. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Related Images

Color image of a quilt panel memorializing 212 Minnesotans who had died of AIDS, 1988.
Color image of a quilt panel memorializing 212 Minnesotans who had died of AIDS, 1988.
Color image of a quilt panel memorializing an “anonymous uncle,” 1988.
Color image of a quilt panel memorializing an “anonymous uncle,” 1988.
Color image of a quilt panel memorializing Jeff Buzzetti, 1988.
Color image of a quilt panel memorializing Jeff Buzzetti, 1988.
Color image of a quilt panel memorializing Chuck and Bryan, 1988.
Color image of a quilt panel memorializing Chuck and Bryan, 1988.
Color image of a quilt panel memorializing Enrique Martinez, 1988.
Color image of a quilt panel memorializing Enrique Martinez, 1988.
Color image of a quilt panel memorializing Emilian Reznicek, 1988.
Color image of a quilt panel memorializing Emilian Reznicek, 1988.
Color image of a quilt panel memorializing Jack Wagner, 1988.
Color image of a quilt panel memorializing Jack Wagner, 1988.
Color image of a quilt panel memorializing Thomas Ralston and Robert Lausten, 1988.
Color image of a quilt panel memorializing Thomas Ralston and Robert Lausten, 1988.
Color image of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Metrodome, 1988.
Color image of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Metrodome, 1988.
Color image of a hat given to volunteers at the NAMES Project tour stop in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1988.
Color image of a hat given to volunteers at the NAMES Project tour stop in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1988.
Color image of a cotton handkerchief given to volunteers at the NAMES Project tour stop in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1988.
Color image of a cotton handkerchief given to volunteers at the NAMES Project tour stop in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1988.
Color image of a NAMES Project Bandana given to Brian Coyle for reading names from the AIDS quilt when it was shown at the Metrodome, July 16–17, 1988.
Color image of a NAMES Project Bandana given to Brian Coyle for reading names from the AIDS quilt when it was shown at the Metrodome, July 16–17, 1988.
Color image of a NAMES Project Button worn by Brian Coyle when he read name from the AIDS Quilt during the Names Project Tour at the Metrodome, 1988.
Color image of a NAMES Project Button worn by Brian Coyle when he read name from the AIDS Quilt during the Names Project Tour at the Metrodome, 1988.
Black and white scan of the front page of the Minneapolis GLC Voice on July 18, 1988.
Black and white scan of the front page of the Minneapolis GLC Voice on July 18, 1988.

Turning Point

On June 25, 1988 the Minnesota NAMES Project Committee hosts quilt-panel workshops across the Twin Cities.

Chronology

May 1982

Bruce Brockway, a gay rights activist and former publisher of the St. Paul Positively Gay newspaper, is the first person in Minnesota diagnosed with HIV. At the time, news media referred to the virus as Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID).

November 27, 1985

During a memorial for gay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, activist Cleve Jones asks people to write down the names of AIDS victims and tape them to San Francisco City Hall. This inspires Jones to create the NAMES Project.

July, 1987

The NAMES Project begins in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood, a center of the gay rights movement. A 4000-square-foot showroom becomes a workshop for assembling the quilt.

April 7, 1988

The 1988 national tour of the NAMES quilt begins in Los Angeles.

June 1988

In Minneapolis, volunteers for the NAMES Project are recruited at the Gay ‘90s and All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church.

June 25, 1988

Panel-making workshops are held throughout the Twin Cities.

early July 1988

The NAMES Project office in Minneapolis begins collecting Minnesota panels for the NAMES Project quilt. A reference volume of remembrances is assembled.

July 16, 1988

Volunteers gather at the Metrodome to unveil the NAMES Project Quilt to an audience of 2000. Speakers read names on the quilt and acknowledge local panel makers. An all-night HIV/AIDS vigil is held at Metropolitan Mt. Sinai Medical Center.

July 17, 1988

Public viewing of the quilt continues and closing remarks are made in the evening. Regional panels are officially presented to the National NAMES Committee and viewing of the quilt closes at eight o’clock in the evening.

July 18, 1988

The front page of the Minneapolis GLV Voice lists the names of Minnesotans who have died of AIDS.

October 7, 1988

The NAMES quilt returns to Washington, D.C. for three days and is displayed on the Capitol Mall. The national tour has raised over $500,000 for HIV/AIDS organizations and the size of the quilt has tripled.

1992

From March 16 to 18 the NAMES quilt returns to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis.

October 12, 1996

The AIDS Memorial quilt is displayed on the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C. By this time over 338, 831 Americans, including 1,787 Minnesotans, have died of AIDS. This marks the last display of the entire quilt.

2005

The NAMES Project receives a “Save America’s Treasures” federal grant to help conserve the quilt.

2017

NAMES Project chapters exist across the United States.