Clark Elementary Memory Quilt

Third graders at Charlottesville’s Clark Elementary School and the Crescent Hall Quilters created a memory quilt depicting important people and places in their community.

GOALS
To provide an opportunity for children to EXPRESS WHAT THEY SEE AS VALUABLE IN THEIR COMMUNITY
To PAIR YOUTH WITH THE ELDERS OF OUR COMMUNITY and pass down important skills that reside in the community
To provide a framework in which students USE ART AS A WAY OF THINKING ABOUT THEIR IDENTITY and relationship to their city
To VALUE THE SKILLS OF LOCAL RESIDENTS and provide opportunity to see themselves as artists

OUTCOMES
49 quilt squares
425 hours sewing
18 45-min art classes in the school
49 students who now identify as artists
49 students who consider quilting to be an art form
The Memory Quilt was formally presented to Mayor Huja and Charlottesville City Council and prominently displayed in Council Chambers.
Local newspaper, The Daily Progress, featured the quilt on the front page. The “heritage in the stitches” photo was placed directly under the masthead and featured students looking at the final quilt after it was presented in their school.

REFLECTIONS

“What stuck out to me during the project was some of the reasons kids picked their favorite place in the community. Many students picked Spudnuts but the second most common place was their church or place of worship. Home and family were favorite topics as well.

Yes, the kids were impacted by understanding the amount of work that goes into making a quilt. The whole demonstration and discussion that the Crescent Hall Quilters, especially Francine and Helen, were a part of was really powerful for the kids to see the amount of work involved. Then the kids had to design and transfer the design to the fabric. It took most of the kids at least three 45 minute classes if not more to finish their quilt square. I think they had a lot of pride for the project when they got to place their squares and then seeing the finished product was overwhelming.

I would love to see the quilt make an impact in the community and possibly travel to some of the places in the quilt to be on display. I know one of the students had the idea for it to be on display at the school. Maybe it can be a traveling exhibit to like the Paramount, Clark, Spudnuts, some of the churches, and maybe a visitors center.

I feel like my main purpose was being a support for the kids as they worked on their quilt squares and then a coordinator of the get together a with the Crescent Hall Quilters. It was a real pleasure working with Francine and Helen. They really did a wonderful job in assembling the final quilt.

I found looking at community from the students perspective to be eye opening. They see community very differently than an adult might. It helped me understand and learn about some of the kids based on what they valued in their community.

Churches, community centers, sports, family, and places they spend time with friends and family seemed to be their major focus for their quilt squares. That seems to be a universal human focus for everyone. Community is about the people and places where we feel safe and comfortable.

The kids really enjoyed the project and we would love to do another quilt or community project in the future. My first and kindergarteners have been working with Berle Solla at PVCC to create drawings that her students turned into flower planters at IX Art Park this year as well. The kids love the idea that their project will be there forever.”
Evelyn Reid, Clark Elementary Art Teacher

“My role is really to bring people together, to facilitate relationships between educators and the community in order to enhance the learning experience in Charlottesville City Schools…This was really the perfect opportunity to bring in social studies, ideas about community, and the people who live here. To introduce students to thinking about their relationship to where they live.

I think it was really important for them to see the finished quilt and to recognize all of the other faces and hands that spent time working on this together…That gathering at Clark cafeteria allowed them to see everyone involved and to celebrate together.

It was interesting to see what places were represented. I remember seeing several drawings of Spudnuts Coffee & Donuts, a couple of the Paramount Theater, the ice rink, a couple of churches…It’s interesting that these are the places that our students identified as important places in their lives.

This project brought to consciousness these places that are special to us. It also demonstrated that quilting is a craft that people still do today. These kids were able to see themselves creating something important.

I think it’s a pretty special thing to have that kind of intergenerational interaction, to see students working with people in the community who are not their teachers or parents but other members of the community, people who are creating things. That’s what we want these students to be experiencing.”
Aaron Eichorst, Arts Coordinator for Charlottesville Schools

“The memory quilt project struck me as a unique opportunity for the inter-generational transfer of a specialized skill base (in this case, quilting). I remember that when the Crescent Hall Quilters first met with the classes, many of the students commented on how they had seen other people in their family quilt, usually mothers or grandmothers. It was gratifying to see them work with the quilters to learn firsthand how the process is done. At the celebration in May, I saw how the project had made an impact on students, teachers, school administration (the principal was there), and of course the quilters themselves. I think that’s an impressive impact for a project that happened over the span of 4 months!

From here, I hope that the quilt that the project produced will take on a life of its own and continue to spread the impact of the project as it travels to different exhibition venues around town. It’s a great tool to heighten awareness about the larger Play the City project and why it’s important to people of all ages in our community.”
Carly Griffith, PCA

“This project certainly made a difference on the children of Clark Elementary. We spent 3 days with 3 different groups of children discussing quilting and showing them how we hand stitch. The kids were able to relate quilting to something their family members, mostly grandparents, were doing or had done. They had lots of questions and were very attentive. At the end of each class they would speak about what they wanted to draw on their blocks. Just looking at their drawings you could see how much thought was put into each block.

I think the community made an impact on the project. Each week as Ms. Reid dropped off a group of finished blocks, co-workers couldn’t wait to see what the kids had drawn. We were all impressed, and with each block you could easily see their vision. Whether it was family, school, church, hobbies, or places in the community – Spudnuts seemed to be a favorite – you could see how their community stood out. Personally, it was hard to pick out a favorite. Some that stood out for me was the Stone Church and the ballet dancers performing at the Paramount, viewed by an audience. It is one thing to draw an outside image of the Paramount, but to actually draw a stage performance with an audience, shows how the community impacted that student.

I truly hope that I was able to make a difference. Quilting for me is a stress-reliever after a long week of work. It’s also a way for me to help out others in need with quilt donations. I never truly thought about quilting as being a form of art. Rather than using maybe a paint brush to paint a picture or using hands to shape a figure, I’m hoping the children now understand that the use of different sizes and colors of fabric is also a form of art, whether it hangs from a wall or be used on a bed.

There was a lot of younger youth involvement. We tend to think of youth as being those individuals in their teens, but what about those 6 to 12 year olds. There are times the adult community will make a decision on what they think would be best for that age group, rather than just getting their involvement. They’re a part of the community too. They too have thoughts and visions of how’d they like to see their community grow. I must admit that at the start of this project, I was little uncomfortable using third graders, thinking that no way they would get the concept and be able to get their drawings done in time. Once meeting them, knowing that they had the support of their school and teacher, I was relieved a little. But as soon as I received the first group of drawings, all my doubts were gone. The project was a total success.”
Francine Payne, Crescent Hall Quilter

“I found looking at community from the students perspective to be eye opening. They see community very differently than an adult might. It helped me understand and learn about some of the kids based on what they valued in their community.”

– Evelyn Reid

Photo Gallery

PARTICIPANTS

49 Clark Elementary Third Graders
Aaron Eichorst – Charlottesville City School Arts Coordinator
Daphne Kaiser – Clark Elementary Principal
Evelyn Reid – Clark Elementary Art Teacher
Francine Payne – Crescent Hall Quilter
Helen Stevens – Crescent Hall Quilter
Ruth Williams – Crescent Hall Quilter
Cynthia Walker – Crescent Hall Quilter
Carolyn Hawkins – Crescent Hall Quilter
Adrianne Johnson – Crescent Hall Quilter