The Festival's theme this year is actually three separate concepts: Citified, which celebrates the art and culture of the African-American South in conjunction with the Anacostia Community Museum; Campus and Community, which celebrates the 150-year anniversary of the USDA and of public/land-grant universities; and Creativity and Crisis, which is centered around the AIDS Quilt.
A Smithsonian intern and I jumped in by helping one of the AIDS Quilt workers pull and sort particular panels from the more than 8000 they brought to the festival. When we had worked our way through their list and stacked the panels on the shelves behind the booth Gert, one of the "Handmaidens of the Quilt" (at least according to the embroidery on the sign than hung from her belt over her rear), asked which of the volunteers present can sew. Turns out, only me. So the other volunteers were sent to assist at other tents (one for the construction of new panels and one for the various art projects coming out of South Africa to deal with the AIDS crisis there) while I assisted with setting up repair stations. Once we had the tables ready, I joined one of the permanent workers, Audrey, and we started repairing panels.
It was actually really interesting work. Audrey and Gert explained that the job was not to improve on the panels or change them - no matter how "funky" they look (their words), the task was to simply perform the repairs to maintain the original as closely as possible. So I basted, hemmed, super-glued, reattached, and patched. As we worked, Audrey told me all about the history of the quilt and her work with it in Atlanta (where the quilt headquarters are based now). A good thing, since within moments of the festival getting officially underway I was fielding questions about the quilt myself from festival visitors. I was also the subject of two press interviews and several photographs, both official and tourist.
I took some photos myself, and when the head volunteer for my section stopped by to check on me, she insisted on taking a picture of me "participating in history." Enjoy!
|The tent where I spent my day
|The quilt (well, part of it) displayed on the Mall with the Capitol in the background
|I fixed the seams on this one
|Audry checking out one I'm about to repair
|There were several sewing machines, if we needed them
|I got a free lunch as a volunteer. I chose chicken kabobs with pear soda.
|I liked this panel's design
|And this one had one of my favorite Shakespeare quotes on it
|Gert showing me a panel she made
|The one on the left is a replica of the very first panel
|Look! I'm participating in history!