The Smithsonian’s annual Folklife Festival returns to the Mall Wednesday to illuminate facets of the culture of D.C., the growth of the American university system and the way in which society responds to crises.
It’s that last mission that will bring portions of the massive AIDS Memorial Quilt back to Washington to mark its 25th anniversary.
The quilt, which began as one three-by-six-foot panel in San Francisco, was unveiled in Washington in 1987 with just under 2,000 panels, each dedicated to one person who had died of the disease. By the time the quilt was last rolled out in its entirety on the Mall in 1996, there were more than 37,000 panels stretching across most of the park.
If you’re planning a visit this year, here’s what you should know:
Visitors to the Folklife Festival, set for June 27-July 1 and July 4-8, won’t see the entire quilt, but a portion of the current 48,000 panels. The Smithsonian will display 2,400 panels at a time, and will rotate them twice after the initial roll-out; in all, 7,200 panels will be part of the fest.
The quilt panels will be folded up and removed each evening from 5 to 6 p.m., so don’t wait until after work to see the quilt. They’re unfolded again each morning from 10 a.m. to noon; a “Reading of Names”continues throughout the day.
Other places to see the quilt:
Stay out of the heat and see panels dedicated to some of the world’s most influential artists at the Kennedy Center , which will display seven of the quilt’s panels from June 27 to July 26 in its South Gallery. The panels will include tributes to choreographer Alvin Ailey, lyricist Howard Ashman, dancer Rudolf Nureyev and a panel marking the work of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
After the quilt leaves the Folklife Festival, it will be part of a project called Quilt in the Capital, which will put pieces of the quilt on display in 40 locations across the area, including the Donovan House Hotel, Dulles Airport and the Martin Luther King Memorial. See a full list of where you can find the displays here.
The Nationals will also participate in an event dedicated to the quilt: Buy a ticket to the July 7 game versus the Colorado Rockies, and the team will make a donation to the quilt and its organizers, The NAMES Project, as well as Whitman-Walker Health.