In the fall of 2016, Luther's Women and Gender Studies program hosted the Fabric of Peace Quilt project. The Fabric of Peace Project is a collection of three quilts titled "The Fabric of Peace," "Peace in the Community" and "Interfaith Connection." The goal of the project and these quilts is to promote and recognize women as peacemakers through a traditionally feminist art form, quilting. We brought the three quilts to Luther and displayed them in the Women and Gender Equality Center and the CFA. We held a fall reception and hosted Christel Badey from the Regional Center for Women in the Arts. We learned about the history of the quilts and the women who constructed them. We held our own peace walk to commemorate our own actions for peace on campus. We visited Campus House and relived the BSU's work for peace and equity for people of color at Luther College. We honored the first African American graduates, Willie C. Heard and Jessie Butts, class of 1964. We also marched to the Martin Luther statue to honor our namesake's reforming spirit in desiring peace in mind and among people. We marched to the Peace Pole (near the Luther Bell), which was erected by the Luther community in 2002 following the events of September 11 that academic year. The pole reads "May Peace Prevail on Earth." It is inscribed with the native languages of the students that were on campus that year and signifies our many different voices and languages coming together to unify around a hope for peace. Finally, we stopped on the steps of the CFL to participate in a litany for peace.
At the end of her visit, Christel invited Luther to participate in creating our own quilt for peace and we readily agreed. We set out to collect 100 squares from students, faculty and community members, each representing what peace means to us. A call was sent to alums and friends of the college. By the end of spring 2017, we had nearly 50 squares but lost our quilter over the summer (Thanks Diane Beseler for your many demonstrations and contributions!).
This August we needed to quilt or abandon the project. Christel and Valetta of the RCWA invited us to display our quilt by participating in the traveling exhibit at the Pennsylvania State Capital building on Nov 1, 2017. Would Luther's quilt be ready?
As my experience with women often proves, and the spirit of the project attests, women know how to get the job done. A friend of mine knew of a friend, a Luther alum, who had her own artist cooperative, Art for Handling, and she quilted. I reached out to Maggie Schneider '06 and she heartily agreed to help us out and put our project together—but we needed 60 squares. Another call went out. A few students and friends came through and crafted out a few more squares…I reluctantly tried my own hand. With Maggie's help (she made three squares—one in honor of my mother!) we reached our goal and she completed the finished product mid-October. Our quilt was sent to Pennsylvania to be a part of the RCWA display at the capital.
Our quilt is titled "Educating for Peace," and each of the artists' names and locations are written in the margins of the quilt. The artists of the squares were asked to write their own comments about their piece and I want to share some of them with you because they are truly inspiring. We can make peace and educate each other. We can role model and take action. We can be agents of change.
Audrey writes about her square, "Author Douglas Wood's character of Old Turtle tells a beautiful story of embracing the other in a divided world. Humans 'come in many colors and shapes, with different faces and different ways of speaking,' but together form a 'family of beings' who can learn to live together in peace and harmony."
Anna, Annie, Lucas and Mackenzie write, "In our square we aim to promote growth and equality through education. We did this by including pages of gender identity above a book which represents education."
Hola-Enlaces, a Luther student organization works with a local community and together they created this square, "This square was made using the thumbprints of adult English learners in Postville, Iowa. Many of the students are originally from Somalia, Guatemala and Mexico, but now call Postville home. They have fled their homes in search of peace, nabad and paz. Together is where we find peace."
Cassie says, "My square represents that underneath we are biologically the same, and that once that shell is broken we are all different on the outside, but still interconnected despite our differences."
And Brenda says, "We all need peace in our hearts. Some days go as smooth as a circle. Some days go as uneven as the shape of a gear. When our day ends, may we all have peace in our hearts."
Rachel tells us she was "Inspired by the Rainbow Flag, I used red for life, green for nature, indigo blue for harmony and orange for healing. Peace requires human life to nurture and respect nature, as harmony promotes healing. This is not a straight-forward process, so the ribbon representing the P for peace has twists and turns."
Congratulations all! Our quilt, "Educating for Peace" is hanging in the Pennsylvania State Capital building rotunda. Well done.