While quilts are primarily thought of as objects associated with domestic interiors, they also have a long history as objects created specifically for the public arena. Quilts meant for public display have been made since the early 19th century as expressions of political agendas, religious faith, civic engagement, and even advertising. Similarly, quilt making, which is sometimes thought of as a solitary art, is often a community endeavor. Quilting (the stitching which holds together the front, batting, and back of a quilt) is often done in groups, making a social event out of a normally time consuming and tedious task. Community quilt making can also be a means of fundraising, with individuals contributing blocks to a quilt to be auctioned off for a cause or gifted to a beloved community member. Another example, the historic signature quilt, is a type of quilt in which members of a community had their signature incorporated into a quilt’s design as a means of showing their support for a particular organization or cause. Participants signed their name to a piece of fabric which was then embroidered into the final design.
Following the model of historic signature quilts, The Edgewater Community Quilt results from the stitched contributions of 150 Edgewater residents and patrons of this library branch. In spring 2015, workshops were held throughout the neighborhood. Participants were given an embroidery hoop, a piece of fabric, and a threaded needle and were asked to stitch an X. As a stand in for the signatures of those who cannot write, the X has often been used as a symbolic mark of agreement and solidarity. In embroidery, as with writing, the X is something that anyone of any age or ability can create, but, as the Xs on this quilt exemplify, the act of making this mark is far from generic. The Xs on this quilt vary greatly—from elaborate to extremely simple—a testament to the diversity among people who live in Edgewater and use this library. Sewn together into one big circle, the Xs of individuals unite.
Detail, hand embroidered Xs stitched by 150 members of Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood community.
City of Chicago Percent for Art Program
In 1978, the Chicago City Council unanimously approved an ordinance stipulating that a percentage of the cost of constructing or renovating municipal buildings and public spaces be set aside for the commission or purchase of artworks. This law provides the citizens of Chicago with improved public space by enhancing the city’s built environment with quality works of art by professional artists. The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is charged with administering the Percent for Art Program in cooperation with other City of Chicago departments, involving consultation with artists, arts professionals, architects and community members. This creative collaboration has enabled Chicago to build one of the finest collections of contemporary public art in the world.
Xs stitched by Library Patrons, May 2015
This project would not have been possible without the enthusiastic support and participation of those whose stitches are evidenced on this quilt. In particular, the students and teachers at Senn High School , Hayt Elementary and Loyola University; residents of the Pomeroy Senior Apartments; knitters from Sifu Design Studio; and the staff of Edgewater Branch Library.