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QuiltCon inspires support for vulnerable children in Atlanta

Hope for a Cure,” by Nichole Landers and Brittany Ewers.

By Guest Columnist MICHELLE HISKEY, an Atlanta-based journalist and writing coach.

Vulnerable children of color are benefiting through a patchwork of quilters from all over the world visiting Atlanta next week. They arrive as more textile artists are using their creative skills for social activism, and telling stories of marginalized people and their pain.

QuiltCon, the largest modern quilt show of its kind, will be held February 23-26, 2023, at the Atlanta Convention Center at AmericasMart. Thousands of attendees will view more than 600 quilts, shop the curated vendor hall, and participate in learning more about quilting.

Michelle Hiskey is a longtime Atlanta-based journalist and writing coach. She can be reached at michelle.hiskey@gmail.com.

Because this craft has always celebrated community, quilters across the country made 38 quilts to benefit people in need in the host city. These Community Outreach quilts are for sale to raise funds for the Carrie-Steele Pitts Home, which for more than a century has nurtured abused, abandoned and neglected children who are unable to stay with their parents, and the children’s sickle cell disease program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, which treats 2,000 children as the largest such program in the country.

Connections to these children’s needs were made through the local Brown Sugar Stitchers Quilt Guild, a diverse guild with more than 100 members from metro Atlanta and 13 other states. I joined them last year as a way to build friendships with women of color and support their art. I agree with death penalty activist Bryan Stevenson that one way forward to racial justice is to genuinely see, hear and understand circumstances facing people. We need to “get proximate” with each other, and working on quilts is a great way to do that.

Established in 2000, Brown Sugar Stitchers have been donating their creations to these two charities as well as families victimized by violence. They will exhibit their own quilts and tell their own stories at QuiltCon in a display called “OURStories in Stitches.”

“We aim to preserve the art, craft, and rich history of African American quilting, and welcome quilters from across the world to support children in need in metro Atlanta,” said Brown Sugar Stitchers President Peggy Martin.

Meanwhile, 2400 miles west

The call for community outreach quilts went out to 200 Modern Quilt Guilds and 17,000 members around the world.

In Reno, Nev., Nichole Landers learned about this opportunity on Instagram. She also participates in the Social Justice Sewing Academy, which has mobilized quiltmakers to support refugees and honor victims of police violence. She finds meaning in the legacy of quilts used as symbols, “to help people follow the Underground Railroad,” she said. “People think of quilting as an old lady thing but it’s an original method of communicating secret messages.”

Landers designed and stitched “Childlike Hope for a Cure,” a twin-size quilt depicting a Black girl with a sickle-shaped balloon that shifts color and becomes whole as it floats skyward. She patterned the figure after her own toddler. Her friend Brittany Ewers helped finish the quilt.

“There’s no real solid solution out there for sickle cell, and just thinking about a child that tiny being in pain and suffering really brought that home for me. I can’t imagine what that would be like, as a parent.”

Landers, 34, is a mother of two young children who serves in the Air National Guard and is finishing her college degree.

“There’s this incredible disparity in medical care for Black women and for Black children,” she said. “Light needs to be shed on this because I don’t think that the average white citizen understands that this is happening. It seems too crazy to be real. While I will never know the hardships experienced by the Black community, I hope to use my voice and my abilities to amplify theirs.”

Natural cohesion of family

“Affinity for Color,” by Brenda Hull.

Local, personal stories of Black quiltmakers are stitched into the “OurStories” exhibit at QuiltCon. Brenda Hull of Stonecrest will exhibit “Affinity for Color.”

“The rich brown faces reflect my African heritage,” she said in her artist statement. “The hues of brown are warm and complement all the other colors in the quilt, as in life. The overlapping of the figures is intentional, conveying the natural cohesion that binds the family, the village. The somewhat disconnected figure is indicative of the diaspora. She is apart but always belonging.”

QuiltCon will also display “The Lives Taken, Lives Remembered” exhibit by the Fulton County

Remembrance Quilters Project, a community partner of the Equal Justice Initiative. These quilts depict lynchings that happened in Fulton County.

QuiltCon’s featured quilter and lecturer, Chawne Kimber, is an African American mathematician and quilter known for expressing her political activism in her quilts. A retrospective exhibit of her work will also be on display, and she will lecture Saturday, February 25, from noon to 1:15 p.m.

Anyone can come to QuiltCon. One-day show tickets are $15. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

If you miss QuiltCon, you can see 400 more stories in stitches by African-American quilters at the exhibit “Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West” through May 21 at the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville. These quilts highlight the achievements made by Black men and women who helped shape the American West and are curated by noted quilt historian Carolyn L. Mazloomi.

Would you like to write a guest column for SaportaReport? The SR team strives to uplift and amplify the diverse perspectives in our community, and we want to hear from you! Email Editor Derek Prall to discuss the specifics.

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