[from the fall 2007 issue of OPEF’s newsletter, Take Note]
Everybody is an artist: That’s what dancer and textile artist Vickie Casanova believes. Look at the hand-sewn pillows and the two intricate quilts made by the students in Gale Liebman and Karen Tokarz’s classes at Brooks, and you’ll see why.
For many of the special needs students who worked with Ms. Vickie on this Art Start project last spring, it was the first time they’d seen, touched or learned about a quilt. Ms. Vickie and the kids discussed the many reasons why people make quilts: for warmth, as artistic expression, to tell a story or mark a special occasion like a birth or wedding, or to carry a social message. Ms. Vickie’s classes talked about quilt history, including how quilts were used as coded maps to guide African Americans escaping slavery in the Underground Railroad, and the enormity of the AIDS quilt project. “It sparked conversations about community, recycling, memory, war, peace, bravery and ingenuity,” she said.
The young designers chose their own patterns and fabrics for their pillows. They learned how to use soap to mark the cutting lines, and use pins first before they took on the challenge of precise sewing work. The students used the iron, sewing machine and needle and thread. For the larger quilts, they worked together as a team to choose fabrics and to make the design elements. Every student also hand-sewed their own autographed block.
“Quilts are the perfect example of diversity,” said Ms. Vickie. “You put all these individual fabric pieces of all kinds of color, shapes and sizes together and, all of a sudden, you’ve made art.” One of the quilters remarked that the project was a “100% fun experience.” Make a trip to see the quilt hanging at Brooks Media Center and you’ll become a believer too.