Regarding the differences between working in paint and working in embroidery to me it is easy to suggest that this gigantic quilt not only draws on traditional American folk arts of quilting but in its tactile, homely nature provokes a stronger response from the viewer. The symbolic nature of a quilt is that of a blanket, one which offers comfort. This community act helps to draw millions of people together over one significant issue of AIDS and the LGBT’s community. The quilt enabled this community to stand as one, representing themselves as one voice to be heard and noticed, fulfilling the speech of Milk where he said they needed to ‘tell the truths about gays’. As the quilt grows and grows it represents something which is completely beyond the capability of one individual, once again emphasising the need to stand together as one voice and one community to be taken notice of. This became the NAMES Project Foundation, as the founders of the project made panels in honor of their friends who had died of AIDS. The project received an overwhelming public response, ‘People in the U.S. cities most affected by AIDS — Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco — sent panels to the San Francisco workshop.’ The quilt was drawn together by devoted volunteers who were friends, family and lovers of those who had died.
The success of the quilt is almost undoubtedly down to it’s tactile nature, although it sybolises an epidemic and each section represents some one who has died, essentially drawing similarities to a mass grave each panel is the size of a grave in response to gay people not being buried or handled by funeral homes, it’s tactile nature makes it approachable (The Names Project Foundation, 2010). Not only this but quilting is deeply rooted in American history, moving to America along with colonists from Europe it became a part of American Folk art history, particularly as part of the American Indian community. Hans,B. (2010) tells us that
Quilting also had a social dimension; women and girls within families worked together on their quilts, but, when possible, they also participated in quilting bees where neighboring women from a usually rural community came together to do the quilting…
These foundations on which quilting was initially established still hold true today, when the quilt was produced it was designed to bring communities together and force people to socialise and to discuss their views and concerns.
Whilst the quilt was an the result of a series of activist actions it is also defined under the modern day term ‘craftivism’, craft as a form of activism which the website Craftivism.com (2003- 2012) defines with an extract written by Betsy Greer, stating that
Craftivism is the practice of engaged creativity, especially regarding political or social causes. By using their creative energy to help make the world a better place, craftivists help bring about positive change via personalized activism. Craftivism allows practitioners to customize their particular skills to address particular causes.
Defining The AIDS Memorial quilt as craftivism demonstrates how the activist actions of the homosexual community led to this large scale act of drawing attention the Aids epidemic. In discussing folk art and creativity Rogoff (2003) discusses the correlation between production through a guided process, community and perspective. By providing rough guidelines such as size and clearly defined subject area encouraged the community to work together in the production of this memorial, to not forget and raise awareness of those who died. This gain of perspective helped this community to connect with those who were in denial or unaware of the AIDS epidemic, but on a calm grounding as they worked together to produce this large piece using traditional methods of their countries foremothers.