In June 1987, Cleve Jones, Mike Smith, and a small group of strangers gathered in a San Francisco storefront on Market Street to formally organize The NAMES Project Foundation. They were determined to find a way to remember and honor the lives of their friends, partners, and loved ones lost to AIDS. They were angry, scared, frustrated, heart-broken, and determined to create a memorial that could not be dismissed or denied. The first panel was made for Marvin Feldman on a single stretch of fabric measuring three feet by six feet.
The public response to The Quilt was immediate. Panels were received from around the country and generous donors rapidly filled “wish lists” for sewing machines, office supplies, and volunteers. On June 27, 1987, the fledgling NAMES Project displayed the first forty panels of The Quilt from the Mayor’s balcony at San Francisco City Hall. Each panel measured three feet by six feet—which approximates the size of a human grave—and displayed the name of an individual lost to AIDS.