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AIDS Memorial Quilt coming to Compass Community Center

For the past ten years, the nonprofit Compass Community Center has displayed colorful panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a 54-ton, handmade tapestry that serves as a tribute to the more than 94,000 individuals who died from the disease — and to those who are prospering despite having it.

The Nobel-Prize-nominated piece of folk art, created in 1987 by a group of strangers, will be on display Dec. 1-11 at the LGBT center on North Dixie Highway.

“This quilt means something different to everyone,” said Ryanmarie Rice, Compass’ chief of staff. “It’s deeply personal and is hard to put into words.”

Each year the center said it hosts the largest quilt display in the state in observance of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.

“We ask community members to request panels,” Rice said. “A lot of them request panels they’ve made in honor of their loved ones.”

Rice said 45 panels will be featured, filling the center’s ballroom.

“You’re surrounded by the quilt,” Rice said. “It’s a full sensory experience.”

As for the entire quilt, more than 48,000 individual 3-by-6-foot memorial panels have been sewn together by friends, lovers and family members. The quilt was initially displayed in October 1987 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, covering a space larger than a football field.

Since then, more than 14 million people have visited the quilt at thousands of displays worldwide.

For the first time, during Compass’ opening-night reception, the group will celebrate a day without art where more than 40 local artists will shroud their pieces in black cloth to signify the impact AIDS has had on the community.

There will also be a performance by The Gay Men’s Chorus of the Palm Beaches, a candlelight vigil and an induction of community members who died from AIDS.

On Dec. 2, local artist Rolando Chang Barrero will host a group exhibition showcasing artwork that displays personal perspectives in the AIDS fight.

“We want to raise awareness of the continuing pandemic that is now largely being disregarded because of current treatments which are mistakenly perceived as cures,” Barrero said. “Of all my friends that I came out with in the early ’80s, less than a handful are alive today.”

Rice said close to 3,000 people are expected to visit the quilt at Compass, including students on school trips.

The point of the exhibit is twofold, Rice noted.

“We don’t want to just mourn the people we’ve lost,” she said. “We also want to celebrate people who are continuing to thrive.”

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