Art class aids artist in quilt-making project

Casey Loving, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Maria Watt, an artist whose work focuses on social justice and her American Indian heritage, spoke at a Wichita State conference this summer. While attending the conference, art teacher Beth Janssen was inspired by Watt’s work on community quilts and decided to bring the idea of a community sewing circle back to Maize.

“She is from a Northwest Pacific American Indian tribe, and they have a history of utilizing blankets as gifts,” Janssen said. “She has people who gift her blankets, and then she cuts them up and creates community quilts. So she asks the community to come in and help her sew. “

Janssen decided to assist Watt in one of her quilt-making projects by enlisting the help of Maize students and community members.

“At the conference they only had 60 people, and they were supposed to have 120 at the community quilt, and they didn’t get everything done,” Janssen said. “So I offered, very strategically, to have them ship us parts of the quilt and that we would help them. So we’re sending the pieces back probably early next week so that she has time to actually put the actual quilt together.”

The sewing circle is meant to be accessible so more people can get involved.

“She lays out the letters in tape, and then the people just follow that tape and sew however they want,” Janssen said. “They don’t have to have any skill. It’s just whatever you bring to the table. So the goal is you hang out, you talk, and you sew.”

Junior Avery Stilwell, a student in Janssen’s class, said that he has enjoyed participating in the project this week despite the fact that he has sewn only a few times before.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Stilwell said.” It’s very relaxing just to get away from normal school homework and all that.”

Janssen said she believes that many other students agree that the sewing circle is a fun break from the normal school day.

“I think they dig it even if they don’t admit they dig it” she said. “They all put the tables together themselves and do pretty much everything and run the show.”

The quilt, which is based on the song “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, will be on display at Crystal Bridges art show in October. Crystal Bridges is an art gallery in Bentonville, Ark.

“My art 1 class, who have done the bulk of the work, we are going to go to Crystal Bridges,” Janssen said. “Waiting on board approval, we are going to go to Crystal Bridges and see the artist and see our work that we helped with.”