Location: Bethlehem, PA, United States
Completion date: 2021
Artwork budget: $10,000
Community Liaison, partners
James P. Jordan, Samantha Beedle, Mary Wright
Morivain University, MFA in Performance Creation
Jessica Bauman, Ramon Verdugo, Tijuana Hace Teatro
The Frontera Project
Anitha Baru, Firuzi Desai, the Indian American Association of the Lehigh Valley, Bibi’s Tiffin
East Meets West
Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley, Puerto Rican Beneficial Society, Herencia Jibara
Rachel Leon; Afros in Nature; Kellz, Nia, and Watsun; Dr. Keisha Thorpe; Mendy Jimenez
Mending the Food Chain
Kinetic Light, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital, Cora Hook, Randall Forte, Elise Schaffer
(re)Making Our World
- Bethlehem Interfaith Group
Acrylic on Tyvek with grommets, lights and fishing line, Dimensions: 6’ x 20’ (Triptych)
In 2021, I was artist-in-residence for Festival Unbound in Pennsylvania, an amazing community performing theater arts festival. There, together with the public, we created the Gratitude Quilt, which provided a connective thread throughout the festival of public participation/engagement. A durational work, it was created over five days. At each of the festival’s events the public co-created a community quilt using painted tyvek, grommets and zip ties. Community engagement centered around the idea of gratitude and connecting with communities. Dialogue and engagement are central parts of my practice. More than 500 people participated in the making of this community quilt. At the end of the festival we celebrated the unveiling of our community quilt through a performance / parade and it was hung at an important site in the community. The quilt was a nomadic work, weighing under 40 pounds and was easy to transport and display. Working with colleagues in a collaborative, engaged way was both inspiration and a torch for future projects. Generosity is an enduring theme in my practice, there was a small gift to all participants. My socially engaged practice manifests through cross pollinating ideas,
Studies show that by emphasizing gratitude in our lives, we feel more connected and happy. Given the current sociopolitical moment, I intended the work to engender an intense community connection. The purpose of the commission was to bring all components of the festival together conceptually, symbolically and physically through co-creating, community connection and collaboration. Created under the auspices of the I Love You Institute, an artist-led initiative to address today’s complex world through saying “I Love You,” the work was part of a larger, international movement. We utilized ILYI water-based markers with I Love You written on the side, which was intended to propagate feelings and notions of love, one person at a time.
Conceptually, I started with the notion of gratitude and researched the importance of a daily gratitude practice. From there, I painted on Tyvek in the studio, then cut them into 6”x6” squares with four grommets in the corners. Together with amazing volunteers, the Gratitude Quilt was created by public participation, before and after each performance throughout the festival. Using a process of relational listening, we engaged 500 people throughout the five-day theater festival. Participants responded to the prompt: ``I am Grateful For?” and then used Love You Institute (ILYI) markers to share their story/thoughts based on the prompt of gratitude. After the small work were created, each square was attached to the “quilt”with zip ties. The quilt, created in situ, was an evolving artwork, created durationally over the Festival. Participants could read others’ responses. Through reading someone elses intimate and vulnerable creation it facilitated the humanization of one another. At the end of the festival we celebrated the unveiling of our community quilt with graduate students performing a movement piece with the quilt. Then they suspended the quilt on the bridge where the public was invited to make a wish by tossing a flower into the river.
Following the festival the Gratitude Quilt now resides permanently in the Touchstone Theater lobby. Over ten partners contributed to the project through a collaborative community engagement initiative. A post-quarantine event, the project facilitated community building and also brought many community groups together to celebrate connection and gratitude for multiple and diverse humans. Together in this quilt was symbolic in that it brought us together.