Student standing in front of AIDs quilt

Dean College is proud to display a section of the AIDS Memorial Quilt on campus from November 14-15, 2023, leading up to the premiere of the School of the Arts production of “RENT” on November 15.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt is a living memorial to a generation lost to AIDS, an important HIV prevention education tool and the largest community arts project in history. Individuals and groups create Quilt panels to honor, remember and celebrate the stories and lives of those lost to HIV/AIDS. Displayed for the first time during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on October 11, 1987, today the Quilt is an epic 54-ton tapestry that includes nearly 50,000 panels dedicated to more than 110,000 individuals.

The Quilt display will provide powerful context to the College’s production of “RENT,” Jonathan Larson’s iconic musical that follows a group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York’s Lower East Side, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.

“In moments of crisis, at times of great conflict and trauma, people turn to art as a way to share their love and their fear and their anger,” said Patsy Collins Bandes, dean of the School of the Arts. “The AIDS Memorial Quilt was built out of one of these moments of protest and demand for those lost to be remembered. We at Dean College are honored to display this work of art in parallel with our students lifting their own voices to create a story of survival, hope and love onstage in our production of ‘RENT.’”

The AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display to the public on Tuesday, November 14 and Wednesday, November 15 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the Dr. Paula M. Rooney Student Center Concourse. Dean students will also be tabling with interactive educational materials during the display. The School of the Arts at Dean will present “RENT” from November 15-19, 2023.

The display is part of the College’s thoughtful new programming series to create more context around each of the theatre shows this season. Titled “Continuing the Conversation,” the College will hold post-show discussions with the creative teams and experts in the field about the performance and the themes, context or history it explores. The series is co-sponsored by the Franklin Public Library and will offer library patrons a discount on tickets if they would like to attend the show prior to the discussion.

The series will kick off with “The Play That Goes Wrong” on Saturday, October 28 and will explore the close tie between murder and comedy, and why they so frequently go hand-in-hand in literature and onstage. Dr. Liz Faber, assistant professor of English and Communications at Dean College, will be part of the panel, as will Julie Hennrikus, executive director of the podcast “Sisters in Crime” and mystery author under the pen names Julia Henry and Julianne Holmes.

The post-show discussion for “RENT” will take place on Saturday, November 18. Continuing the conversation from the Quilt display earlier in the week, this event will discuss the legacy of the AIDS epidemic 40 years later and its influence on queer identity in the 21st century. Guests will include Dr. Kristin Holster, professor of sociology at Dean College, and Dr. Helen Lewis-Michelson, associate professor of theatre at The Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

“Continuing the Conversation allows us to deepen the exploration of the shows we are producing, and it is thrilling to be able to partner with the Franklin Public Library on this project,” said Collins Bandes. “It gives us an opportunity to explore with both our students and the community what impact our art has on the world, and how theatre is a powerful tool for cultural engagement.”

Learn more information about the AIDS Memorial Quilt and “RENT” and the Continuing the Conversation series.