Trying to Make Sense of It: 9/11, Loss, and Memorial Quilts

Trying to Make Sense of It: 9/11, Loss, and Memorial Quilts

In times of death and grief, quilts convey—without words—messages of solace, solidarity, and support to the receivers. At times, groups use quilts to express themselves as a community of support to others who have experienced loss. In addition, as both objects of art and as stitched documents, quilts convey compelling messages to viewers when displayed in public spaces.

Each quilt in Trying to Make Sense of It: 9/11, Loss, and Memorial Quilts provides an example of the unique ways that quilts help us process the various kinds of losses we experience. For the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we pause to remember those who have perished in this and other collective, personal, and community losses, and to reflect upon the ways memorial quilts function in our lives.

August 20, 2021 - October 16, 2021; Portions of this 3-gallery exhibition end on 10/2 and 10/9.
Coryell, VonSeggern & Gottsch Galleries

The Collective Is Personal

The Collective Is Personal
The Collective Is Personal

Twenty years ago, on the morning of September 11, 2001, foreign terrorists hi-jacked four aircraft filled with passengers and flew them toward buildings that symbolized American economic and political power. Three impacted their targets: the World Trade Center twin towers in New York, New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Brave passengers diverted the fourth intended for the either the White House of the Capitol, and it crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

2,977 people from 77 countries died on September 11, 2001 in the terrorist attacks on the United States.

Later in the day on 9/11, people began leaving flowers, notes, and photos as impromptu personal memorials in parks and along fences near the sites. Today, public memorials and museums on these sites interpret the collective memory of that tragic day to the thousands who visit each year.

Public memorials honor these deaths as losses shared in common by all Americans.

Families and friends around the globe remember each life as a personal loss, too.

What is different in how you remember collective versus personal loss?

The Collective Is Personal: United in Memory 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt

The Collective Is Personal: United in Memory 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt
The Collective Is Personal: United in Memory 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt

News media broadcast the horrifying images of the attacks on the United States by foreign terrorists on September 11, 2001, inscribing the traumatic events into the memory of viewers. The human process of collectively mourning the losses and sharing comfort with others began immediately.

A few weeks after the attacks, Corey Gammel and Peter Marquez of Long Beach, California visited Ground Zero, the site of the collapsed towers of the World Trade Center in New York, New York. Stirred by this experience and the example of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, the men founded an organization to create the United in Memory 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt. Their aim was “Honoring the Victims. Comforting the World.” According to Gammel, the quilt serves as, “a healing balm to our wounded spirits and as [an] eternal [beacon], reaffirming our respect for life and freedom and inspiring an end to hatred, bigotry, ignorance, and intolerance.”

The United in Memory 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt consists of 143 panels containing personalized blocks for each victim of the terrorist attacks in New York, New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The work of 3,600 volunteers from 18 countries and covering more than 15,000 square feet, the panels toured the country beginning in late 2002. The quilt became part of the International Quilt Museum collection in 2015.

The Collective Is Personal: Quilts

The Collective Is Personal: Quilts

A Pentagon Garden
Don Beld and Bernice Foster
Los Angeles, California, 2011
Cotton; hand pieced and quilted
Gift of Don Beld IQM 2012.016.0011

Don Beld meant for A Pentagon Garden to be a memorial space, much like a cemetery. He was inspired by the layout of military cemeteries founded during the Civil War. In those cemeteries, designers arranged the burial plots in concentric circles. Each of the 184 Nine Patch blocks in this quilt contains the initials and age of one of those who died in the Pentagon building or on American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. Beginning at the bottom center of the quilt, Beld arranged the blocks in concentric circles beginning with the youngest victim, first on the left side of the quilt and then on the right, ending with the oldest victim at the bottom center. In all, the quilt has 2,977 pieces, the total number of people killed in the terrorist attacks on 9/11. As a result, it becomes a space where all who died are symbolically gathered and where survivors may pay their respects.

Home of the Brave Album quilt
Don Beld and Home of the Brave Quilt Project State Coordinators
Redlands, California, 2008-2009
Cotton; machine pieced, hand quilted
Gift of Don Beld
IQM 2009.042.0001

The United States entered wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, countries which at the time were believed to harbor or sponsor terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks, or who posed a threat for future attacks. As members of the U.S. Armed forces died in these wars, grassroots groups emerged to make memorial quilts as gifts of solace to their surviving family members. One group, Home of the Brave Quilt Project founded by Don Beld, recruited a coordinator in each state to assure that families in their state who had lost loved-ones to the wars received a memorial quilt. The coordinators joined together to create this collective memorial that represents those who died. 

Maker unidentified
Probably made in Denver, Colorado, dated 1917-1918
Cotton; embroidered, machine pieced and quilted
Sue Reich Collection, Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation
IQM 2021.021.0002

Do you see the blue and gold stars embroidered on this quilt? The blue stars honor men from Denver, Colorado who served in World War I. The gold stars memorialize those who served and died.

Often when someone dies, their community gathers in living rooms and at funeral homes, in places of worship, and cemeteries to pay their respects, support the grieving, and share memories of the one they have lost. On this quilt, the names of Denver residents surround the names of the soldiers killed in action, much like mourners circle the grave at the cemetery. 

In addition, each person named donated a few cents for their name to appear on the quilt, which was also a fundraiser, possibly to support the Red Cross’s field hospitals for wounded and dying soldiers. 

Shock & Awe
Pieced by Andrew Lee, quilted by Angie Lamoree
Everywhere, USA, 2019
Cotton; machine pieced and quilted
Loaned from the artist

Army Staff Sergeant Andrew Lee based the scene depicted on this quilt on an iconic World War II photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal during the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. Lee’s quilt is a memorial to those who died in the Battle of Iwo Jima. It is also the result of his efforts to heal from his own war experiences.

Lee served ten years active duty beginning in 1997. During two deployments in Iraq, he sustained injuries and experienced the death of fellow soldiers. He returned home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After he began quiltmaking, Lee realized its therapeutic benefits. He stitched this challenging quilt to keep his mind engaged during times of isolation as an over-the-road truck driver, so he says it was made “Everywhere, USA.” He also makes and presents Quilts of Valor to soldiers who have been touched by war. His quiltmaking has given him purpose and helped with his own healing process. About quilts, Lee states, “There is so much therapeutic value in them. I want others [with PTSD] to experience the therapeutic value of making quilts.

United in Memory 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt, Panel 10
Made in United States, 2002
Cotton; machine pieced, tied
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation
IQM 2015.072.0010

United in Memory 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt, Panel 41
Made in United States, 2002
Cotton; machine pieced, tied
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation
IQM 2015.072.0041

United in Memory 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt, Panel 85
Made in United States, 2002
Cotton; machine pieced, tied
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation
IQM 2015.072.0085

United in Memory 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt, Panel 88
Made in United States, 2002
Cotton; machine pieced, tied
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation
IQM 2015.072.0088

United in Memory 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt, Panel 97
Made in United States, 2002
Cotton; machine pieced, tied
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation
IQM 2015.072.0097

United in Memory 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt, Panel 99
Made in United States, 2002
Cotton; machine pieced, tied
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation
IQM 2015.072.0099

United in Memory 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt, Panel 104
Made in United States, 2002
Cotton; machine pieced, tied
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation
IQM 2015.072.0104

United in Memory 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt, Panel 105
Made in United States, 2002
Cotton; machine pieced, tied
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation
IQM 2015.072.0105

United in Memory 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt, Panel 106
Made in United States, 2002
Cotton; machine pieced, tied
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation
IQM 2015.072.0106

The Collective Is Personal: Quilts

The Personal Is Universal

The Personal Is Universal
The Personal Is Universal

When you experience loss, what are things your community does that you find comforting and meaningful?

Death and grief are the common experience of all humanity, whether death comes following a long period of declining health, suddenly and without warning, or in the service of one’s country. Every culture, community, and family has established practices that their members use to mourn their losses and to honor and remember those who have died.

What memorial practices and traditions of other communities do you admire?

The Personal Is Universal: Quilts

The Personal Is Universal: Quilts

Covid Memorial Quilt, Panel 3
Made by Madeleine Fugate & Wendy Wells
Los Angeles, California, 2020
Cotton and various materials; machine pieced, tied.
Collection of Covid Memorial Quilt

As of July 2021, more than 609,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the United States.

Thirteen-year-old Madeleine Fugate founded the COVID Memorial Quilt in April 2020, when the cumulative deaths due to the disease were rapidly rising in the U.S. She began this memorial quilt project to provide a public way for people to honor those who died from the virus. She writes in 2020:

"I think it's very sad what is happening to the world with this virus. . . . When you watch the news, it's just about the numbers and how they keep going up. They have gotten so high that we don't think of those numbers as people anymore and I want to change that. They aren't just numbers. They are people who died and they deserve to be remembered. Behind every number is a person who had a family and friends who loved them."

Covid Memorial Quilt, Panel 8
Made by Madeleine Fugate & Wendy Wells
Los Angeles, California, 2021
Cotton and various materials; machine pieced, tied
Collection of Covid Memorial Quilt

The AIDS Memorial Quilt inspired Madeleine Fugate’s choice to begin the COVID Memorial Quilt for her school’s community action project. Her mother had contributed to the AIDS quilt in the 1980s and told Madeline how it was healing and “almost magical” to do something to remember loved ones she lost at a time when no one was honoring them.

To learn how to begin a memorial quilt project, Madeleine spoke to Cleve Jones, the founder of the AIDS quilt.

"Talking with Cleve Jones . . . was really like I was talking to the Jedi master of memorial quilts. … He was touched that a girl like me would care about him or what he did in the 1980s, but I think what he did was an act of love and we all need more love right now."

AIDS Memorial Quilt
Block 4460
Living Well Project at the University of Hawai’i
Hawai’i, 1996
Collection of the National AIDS Memorial

The AIDS Memorial Quilt is the world’s largest contemporary folk art object. Today, the quilt has nearly 50,000 blocks, which commemorate more than 105,000 people who have died in the AIDS epidemic. Each panel is approximately the size of a human grave, sometimes made from the victim’s clothing, and includes expressions of survivors’ grief. In 1987, when the AIDS Quilt was displayed for the first time in Washington, D.C., the deeply personal nature of the memorial panels and the enormous size of the overall display, made the rapidly increasing number of lives lost to AIDS something people could see, rather than an impersonal statistic.

San Francisco gay rights activist Cleve Jones conceived the AIDS Quilt in 1985 at the end of a candlelight march. At the time of the march, over 1,000 people had died of AIDS, mostly gay men. Jones asked marchers to write the names of victims they knew on placards and tape them to the San Francisco Federal Building. He recalled the event later in an NPR interview:

"[There] was gentle rain, no speeches or music, just thousands of people reading these names on this patchwork of placards up on that wall. And I thought to myself, 'It looks like some kind of quilt,' and when I said the word 'quilt' I thought of my great-grandma.… And it was such a warm and comforting and middle-American traditional-family-values sort of symbol, and I thought, 'This is the symbol we should take.'”

The United in Memory 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt and the COVID Memorial Quilt in this gallery are just two of the many quilt projects inspired by the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

The Living Well Project at the University of Hawai’i created this block for the AIDS Memorial Quilt. It includes the names of many victims of the AIDS epidemic who were Indigenous people of Hawaii. A total of 82 names appear on the block.

This block shows how individuals with shared backgrounds and experiences may join in a healing activity of making a quilt that honors members of their community. Most AIDS Quilt blocks are assembled from eight 3-foot-by-6-foot panels to create a 12-foot-by-12-foot block, and each panel is devoted to the memory of a single victim of the AIDS epidemic. This block is an exception because it commemorates multiple individuals in each panel, uses coordinating fabrics, and anchors the design with the Living Well Project medallion. The result is that this block calls special attention to the impact of AIDS on Indigenous people.

Kendra’s Quilt
Allie Aller
Washougal, Washington, 2004
Patty’s clothes; hand appliquéd, machine quilted
Private collection

Kendra received this quilt made from her mother’s clothing about two years after her mother, Patty, died of cancer. Kendra, then in college, remembers: “I was still grieving heavily. I couldn’t really grasp how special it was because it was very painful to look at the quilt.” After a few years of working through her grief and the anger associated with it, Kendra found comfort in the quilt: “Now I am able to touch her clothes and see it in a different way, and just have fond memories.” She remembers her mother wearing the Arizona Wildcats t-shirts while watching men’s basketball games on the weekends. The sweater reminds her of how her mother, a single mom, saved up so she could take Kendra and her sister on ski trips. “Now that I am an adult…, the quilt’s meaning to me is of a mother’s enduring love after death. You know that love endures forever. She’s still with me. I can feel her.”

The practice of including clothing and mementos in a memorial quilt is more than a century old. This type of quilt, which quilter and teacher Sherri Lynn Wood has aptly named Passage Quilts, is perhaps the most personal of all memorial quilts.

Joss Crazy Quilt Kimono III
Carol D. Westfall
New Jersey, circa 1995
Joss paper; hand stitching
A gift from the estate of Carol D. Westfall: beloved wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, multi-media artist, and friend to many.
IQM 2017.050.0004

Carol Westfall, a multi-media artist, made a series of Joss Quilts. About them she writes:
The Joss Quilts function as mourning cloths. In Chinese culture, joss paper or sticks are burned in memory of ancestors to provide security in the afterlife. These quilts memorialize my ancestors and I hope will provide for their well-being in the hereafter.

Joss paper, typically made from course bamboo paper, is cut into rectangles and often decorated with seals, stamps, or engraving. Joss paper with gold or silver foils, called spirit money, when burned, supplies ancestors’ needs in the afterlife. The underlying belief is that burning allows the offering to cross from the natural world to the spirit world.

Coffin Cover
Maker unidentified, 1880-1900
Possibly made in Florida
Silk; hand and machine pieced, hand embroidered and appliquéd
Ardis and Robert James Collection
>IQM 1997.007.0360

This intricately worked piece was likely used in funeral services as a drape over the casket. It reflects late Victorian design, when embroidered motifs on luxury fabrics were the height of popularity.

Draping coffins with textiles has a long history in Western cultures. In ancient Rome a man’s pallium—a rectangular length of cloth worn as a cloak—draped his coffin as it was carried to the cemetery. By the Middle Ages, Christians used the pallium, shortened to “pall,” in funeral rituals to cover the coffin. The national flag is often used as a pall at military funerals. Today at a quiltmaker’s funeral, family may cover the maker’s coffin with her or his quilt and display others nearby.

The Personal Is Universal: Quilts

The Personal Is Collective

The Personal Is Collective
The Personal Is Collective

Members of some communities are more likely to die from disease, violence, unjust conditions, and disaster than those of other communities.

The story of each person’s life and death is unique. Yet, there are factors that contribute disproportionately to the death of persons of color and of certain ethnic, religious, sexual, gender, and disadvantaged communities. In recent times, artists have used quilts to publicly name the victims of these deaths, raise awareness of the need for change, and engage in calling for justice.

In what ways have communities responded to these types of losses?

What losses has your community experienced?

The Personal Is Collective: Quilts

The Personal Is Collective: Quilts

Tucson Sector 2018-2019
Reilly Zoda and Gerry Murano of Tucson, Arizona for the Migrant Quilt Project, 2020
Migrant clothing and various materials; machined pieced and quilted
Collection of the Arizona History Museum

Between October 1, 2018 and September 30, 2019, officials recovered the remains of 137 migrants in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. These are a fraction of the at least 3,200 migrants who have died since the mid-1990s in harsh desert conditions after crossing the international border from Mexico to Arizona. Volunteers collected the discarded denim used in this Migrant Quilt Project quilt from sites in the desert where migrants often rest along established trails.

The Migrant Quilt Project is a grassroots organization that shows compassion for migrants from Mexico and Central America who died in the southern Arizona deserts. The project also brings attention to U.S. trade and immigration policies that contribute to the conditions that many migrants flee and that block access to all but the most perilous regions of the border. Using migrant clothing, naming each migrant who died, or inscribing desconocido/a—“unknown”—when the remains are unidentified calls attention to each person’s humanity and assures that each one is counted.

Refugee Quilt Series: Sacrifice
Judith Trager
Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Cotton; machine appliquéd and quilted
Gift of the artist
IQM 2019.127.0005

A single image can focus global attention on a crisis, as did the syndicated image of three-year-old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, whose body washed ashore in Turkey in September 2015. Because of civil war, millions of Syrians sought refuge in Europe. Tragically, overcrowded and unsafe boats capsized or sank on the trip toward refuge in Greece. Hundreds lost their lives in 2015 alone, and the crisis is still ongoing in 2021.

Judith Trager, the maker of this quilt, said: “The cloth holds us together. We’re vulnerable. We’re careless. We need something to cover us.” Trager leveraged quilts’ meanings as covering and protection to speak compassionately of displaced people who have died when seeking safety and refuge.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Since 1492
Susan Hudson (Navajo/Dine)
Navajo Reservation, Sheep Springs, New Mexico, 2017
Cotton, leather, beads, buttons, yarn; machine and hand sewn
Collection of the artist

While quiltmakers often sew clothing of the deceased into memorial quilts, Susan Hudson (Navajo/Dine), a textile artist, stitched examples of clothing that represents all Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) from the “past, present, and future.” Hudson is also an activist who works to stop racially motivated violence, murder, kidnapping, sex trafficking, rape, and forced sterilizations of Indigenous people, which has been happening in the Americas since European contact in 1492. In some regions of the U.S., Indigenous women are 10 times more likely to die of murder today than the rest of the general population. In addition, a 2016 report states that more than one-third of Indigenous women have been raped and more than one-half have been sexually assaulted during their lifetime. Hudson says, “I made this quilt to bring this epidemic to the forefront and to educate people. To let people know that we are human beings and our lives are precious.”

As dire as the statistics are, in her quilts Hudson focuses on living beauty and human stories rather than data points. She says,

"We might not know the names of all the MMIW, their tribes, clans, families, or what year and date they took their last breath. I want them to know that they are not forgotten. I will keep talking about them. I will keep honoring them until I take my last breath. Their stories, your story, or Herstory will not be forgotten.”

The Holocaust
Natalia Merentseva
St. Petersburg, Russia, 1998
Linen; machined pieced, embroidered, hand quilted
Gift of Robert and Ardis James
IQM 1998.008.0006

Natalia Merentseva obscured the photographs of European Jews in the arms of the Star of David, signifying those who were exterminated during the Holocaust. The Holocaust refers to the state-sponsored murder of six million European Jews and other targeted groups by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II between 1941 and 1945.

In 1948, after the atrocities committed in the Holocaust had become apparent on the world stage, the United Nations adopted 30 statements on human rights called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Merentseva’s quilt was a finalist in the 1998 Expressions of Freedom quilt contest celebrating the 50th anniversary of the UDHR.

Merentseva writes:
"An opinion exists that the war crime can be explained by the cruelty of wartime. [I] cannot agree with it. . . . Human extermination on a mass scale is the last link in a long chain where a small crime gives rise to a bigger one. That is why there are not more important or less important paragraphs in the Declaration of Human Rights. Even a simple nonobservance of political correctness in a statement today can be a reason of genocide against a whole nation tomorrow."

CAKEwalk, from Another Country Quilt Cycle
DARNstudio (David Anthone + Ron Norsworthy)
Roxbury, Connecticut, 2020
Paper matchbooks, recycled felt, cotton thread; hand stitched
Collection of the artists

Each of the matchbooks in this piece is a tiny cardboard memorial. The front of each has the imprinted logo of a place, business, or community where an unarmed person of color lost her or his life at the hands of law enforcement. The back displays an alphanumeric code comprised of the deceased’s first and last initials and the date of her or his death. The incendiary nature of matchbooks and the other materials is symbolic. The artists write:

The use of matchbooks bound . . . by cotton thread sewn in connecting crosses—creating the overall effect of a net cast over the surface of the matchbooks—serves as a multilayered metaphor for the traumatic, dehumanizing effects of chattel slavery . . . and the enduring oppressiveness of systemic and institutional racism after the abolition of slavery in America.

CAKEwalk takes its name from competitions in which enslaved Black Americans performed exaggerated dances caricaturing the gestures, dances, and social customs of white Plantation owners. Owners awarded a cake to the winner, unaware of the clever way the dances mocked them and performed enslaved people’s navigation of racial inequality. Today, cakewalk means an easy task or victory, to which the artists respond, “Navigating racism is no cakewalk for Black people.”

Yesterday: Civil Rights in the South
Yvonne Wells
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1989
Cotton; hand appliquéd, embroidered, and quilted
Robert and Helen Cargo Collection. Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation, partial gift of Robert and Helen Cargo
IQM 2000.004.0142

Yvonne Wells, a folk artist, uses visual narratives in much of her work. Yesterday: Civil Rights in the South is a story quilt designed to commemorate violent attacks on Black Americans as well as memorialize people who were murdered during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

On the quilt, the gravestones represent three of the four Black girls killed in the 1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The single body on the roadway represents Viola Liuzzo who drove from Detroit, Michigan in March 1965 to support the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. After the march, as she drove participants back to Selma, Ku Klux Klan members pulled up beside the car and shot her. Other vignettes depict a lynching and slain civil rights workers who participated in voter registration drives for Black citizens in Southern states. Theses racially-motivated murders committed by law enforcement and Ku Klux Klan members were rarely prosecuted, and those that were rarely resulted in convictions.

Story Cloth
Hmong maker unidentified
Possibly made in South Carolina, circa 2006-2007
Cotton blend; embroidered, hand pieced
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation
IQM 2019.048.0001

This embroidered Story Cloth narrates the genocide, dislocation, and oppression of Hmong people by the Pathet Lao communist party in Laos beginning in 1975. In 1961, under the authorization of President John F. Kennedy, the CIA recruited Hmong who lived in the northern hill regions of Laos to participate in the United States’ covert military operations against the spread of communism in Laos and Vietnam. In 1975, the communists prevailed and the U.S. withdrew from the region, airlifting only a minority of senior Hmong military officials and their families. For siding with the U.S., the remaining Hmong suffered many atrocities including genocide.

As depicted on the quilt, the Pathet Lao arrived in Hmong villages with tanks, set homes afire, and executed Hmong by bludgeoning or gunfire as they attempted to flee for refuge in Thailand across the Mekong River. Survivors testified of encountering many dead bodies of their people as they fled through the jungles. Beginning in 1980, after new legislation paved the way, thousands of Hmong immigrated to the U.S. Today, more than 250,000 Hmong reside in the U.S.

Nineteen. Memorial for the Child-Victims of the Oklahoma City Bombing
Jean Ray Laury, machine quilted by Susan L. Smeltzer
Clovis, California, 1996
Cotton; stamped, machine pieced and quilted
Gift of Jean Ray Laury
IQM 2010.014.0015

The artist Jean Ray Laury was one of nineteen quiltmakers selected to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing and to honor the nineteen children killed in the blast. Laury writes:
I wanted to do something that used those little things that were going to be left at home . . .  when things went back to normal. You know, there would still be children's pajamas around and roller skates—and so those were the objects that I picked. Those were the things that were going to be emotionally wrenching for adults. In remembering the kids, I wanted [the quilt] to be high-spirited and . . . capture the spirit of kids.

Laury depicted the everyday objects and activities of childhood repeatedly in her art, beginning with Child's Quilt made almost forty years earlier.

Remembrance Project Banners
Social Justice Sewing Academy
Various locations, United States, 2021
Cotton; machine pieced and quilted
Collection of the Social Justice Sewing Academy

The lives of the ten people of color named in these Remembrance Banners ended because of events of domestic, community, racial, or gender violence. The majority of these deaths occurred during encounters with law enforcement. Similar to the AIDS Memorial Quilt, each block includes the victim’s name as well as their portrait, words, or interests and her or his role as a member of families and communities. Also similar to public displays of the AIDS Quilt, local and national activist organizations display the banners at activist events to testify of the victims’ human dignity and their tragic end.

Remembrance Project Banners are a project of the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA). Founded in 2017, SJSA is a youth education program that bridges artistic expression with activism to advocate for social justice. Through hands-on workshops across the country, SJSA empowers youth to use textile art as a vehicle for personal transformation and community cohesion to become agents of social change. Volunteers who assist the SJSA in their education programs made these blocks for the Remembrance Project Banners.

Top then bottom, left to right

Sierra Robinson
Noelani Robinson
Blocks by Toby Schwartz, 2020

Sierra Robinson and Noelani Robinson were murdered in a case of domestic violence.


Tanna Gardner
Block by an anonymous quilter, 2020

Tanna Gardner was a mother of two children and had just finished her Accounting degree when she died on Mother’s Day. While she was celebrating her graduation, another car pulled up beside the one she was in and fired into it, killing her and wounding others.


Elijah McClain
Block by Vivien K. Partridge, 2020

Elijah McClain died at age 23. Police officers stopped him while he was walking down the street, possibly dancing to music. He was unarmed. Officers pinned him in a carotid hold. McClain vomited and said he could not breathe. Paramedics injected him with a sedative and transferred him to an ambulance where he suffered cardiac arrest.


Ray Shawn Hudson, Jr.
Block by Melinda Miller, 2021

Maya Rivera
Block by Deborah Gronich Tate, 2021

Ray Shawn Hudson, Jr. died on his 5th birthday, along with his mother Maya Rivera (24) and father Ray Shawn Hudson, Sr. (28). Their bodies were burned and discarded on private property. The suspect is an acquaintance of Hudson, Sr.


Christian Madrigal
Block by Jennifer Jow, 2020

Christian Madrigal died in police custody at age 20.


Taja Gabrielle DeJesus
Block by Alisa K, 2020

Taja Gabrielle DeJesus was a 36-year-old trans woman of color who was fatally stabbed.


Natasha McKenna
Block by Katie Gillies, 2020

Natasha McKenna was a 37-year-old African American mother living with mental illness. She was in police custody and was restrained while being transferred to another facility. She resisted and was stunned four times with a Taser before going into cardiac arrest.


Philando Castile
Block by Marissa Friesen, 2020

Philando Castile was a 32-year old African American man. His car was pulled over by officer Jeronimo Yanez. Castile legally carried a weapon, disclosed this to the officer, and did not reach for it. The officer shot Castile seven times at close range.

The Personal Is Collective: Quilts

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Support for this exhibition has been provided by contributions from visitors like you and by the following sponsors: Meg Cox, Louise Howey Memorial Quilts Fund, Alan and Wilma Von Seggern Fund, Friends of the International Quilt Museum, and the Nebraska Arts Council/Nebraska Cultural Endowment. The Nebraska Arts Council, a state agency, has supported this exhibition through its matching grants program funded by the Nebraska Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment. Visit for more information
Event Date
Friday, August 20, 2021 to Saturday, October 16, 2021