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December 17, 2015

CIA students lend talents to AIDS memorial quilt project

CIA students lend talents to AIDS memorial quilt project

Project creates lasting tribute to those who have died of AIDS

By Cindi Deutschman-Ruiz

It started with just a handful of people in a San Francisco storefront nearly 30 years ago, yet ultimately grew to involve the efforts of tens (and possibly hundreds) of thousands of people, all working to create a lasting tribute to people who have died of AIDS.

The 48,000-panel AIDS memorial quilt, a bonafide cultural phenomenon, continues to evolve, and gained a few more locally crafted panels quite recently.

Every other year since 2009, Metrohealth has displayed panels from the quilt, and hosted quilt-making sessions for anyone interested in memorializing a loved one lost to AIDS.

They have always needed volunteers to help make those quilt panels a reality, and this year’s involvement of CIA Community Service Club members marked the third time CIA students and the Office of Student Life and Housing have lent their talents to the project.

Each CIA participant was paired with a group or family for whom the AIDS pandemic has become tragically personal.

According to Community Service Club advisor Danielle Rueger, “We learned about their lives and how they wanted their person to be remembered, and then helped them incorporate those ideas into a quilt design.”

Jennifer McMillen Smith, a Metrohealth social worker who has been the point person for this project since its first year, says, “People usually have an idea, like, ‘Ooh, I want to have a pool table, or a ladybug, or whatever.’ They just don’t know how to create that and make it a reality. They are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.”

Smith says that’s where the CIA students come in.

“The art students not only help get it started; they are there through the whole process. They bring that ability to translate somebody’s idea to an actual work of art to help families make what they had in their mind become a reality,” she says.

CIA junior Madelyn Troutner (Graphic Design) was part of a team helping Bill, who wanted to create a quilt panel memorializing his partner Patrick, an avid gardener and accomplished chef.

The panel centered on a huge sunflower with handprint petals, with additional elements including irises, a trowel, a bottle of Crown Royal and a chef’s jacket, along with the words laissez les bon temps rouler (“let the good times roll”), a lasting testament to Patrick’s New Orleans roots.

“I helped them develop their original sunflower idea into something we all dreamed it could and would be, and I'm very humbled and proud that I was able to be a part of that struggle and mourning with them.”

The experience is one she describes as an emotional day full of tears and goose bumps.”

Community Service Club advisor Rueger says that she and the students “were thrilled with just the idea of using our artistic abilities to give back in some way, but I don’t know that any of us anticipated just how deep a connection we would be making with the people we worked with, or how moving it would be.”

Above: Zoe Sykora, a first year student and member of CIA's Community Service Club, volunteered at the AIDS Memorial Quilt workshop at MetroHealth Medical Center in November.

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