I’ve written about my relationship with the tenants of Moore Place many times over the last year, but it can’t hurt to tell the story again one last time.
Last fall, I traveled from Anchorage, Alaska to Charlotte, North Carolina for a two month long artist residency through a partnership between the Rasmusson Foundation and the McColl Center for Art + Innovation.
The McColl Center’s operating philosophy encourages the artists in residence to engage with the community of Charlotte in a meaningful way.
It was suggested that I might be interested in making a community quilt with the tenants of Moore Place. Moore Place is a Housing Works project run by the Urban Ministry Center.
All of these organizations are advocates for compassionate approaches to ending homelessness in Charlotte.
Moore Place is a permanent housing facility for 85 formerly chronically homeless individuals.
Not only is Moore Place permanent housing, it is also wrap around services to help the residents get the education, job training, health and medical services they need.
The end result is success for everyone. Housing First programs like Moore Place have been studied and documented–they help individuals get off the streets and become healthy, happy, and productive while also saving the tax payers money.
Moore Place is amazing, and I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to document the residents and their journey in a community quilt.
Every Tuesday afternoon for two months, I would load up a mini-van with sewing machines, supplies, ironing boards and irons.
I would set up a mini-SEW SHOP where tenants could make pillow cases, tote bags, and other simple sewing projects for their apartments.
While stitching, we learned about each other and began the conversation about what a quilt made by the residents of Moore Place might look like.
I shared examples of other community quilts I have made.
I believe taking the two months to build this relationship was essential to the success of the project.
I needed to understand how Moore Place worked and what the residents were like.
They needed to know they could trust me and the work I wanted to do.
In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how it would all go down. I might spend two months making pillow cases, and we would never make quilt blocks.
I might not get to be the conduit I wanted to be for this quilt. The residents of Moore Place could have decided they didn’t want me to tell their story in cloth. The residents surprised me with their generosity and willingness to share themselves.
I do believed they are the examples, the front line, of how individuals can go from homelessness to home.
Supporting formerly homeless individuals by giving them the opportunity to have a home–I should say here, that the residents do PAY for their apartments–is a compassionate approach to homelessness and it WORKS.
And the residents of Moore Place who made quilt blocks are all saying to the world–look at us. We were homeless, but we no longer are. We are grateful for the compassion you have showed us. This approach has allowed us to get healthy, to get sober, to get an education, to get jobs.
I very much believe that the way we treat the members of our society who need help says clearly what kind of community, state, nation we are.
Moore Place, its tenants, its staff, its community are really shiny examples of what we all could be.
I have spent this past week back in Charlotte, North Carolina. The first 24 hours were spent doing finishing work on the quilt.
It is a large quilt measuring 107 inches wide by 76 inches long. The facings and four hanging sleeves took more than 12 hours to hand stitch in place.
On Tuesday we went to Moore Place to hang the quilt. How many people does it take to hang a large quilt up high? Well, at least four, maybe more.
On Thursday, we had a celebration of the quilt.
The turn out was good. There were lots of community members and lots tenants. Katie Church, Tenant Services Coordinator at Moore Place, welcomed everyone who gathered for the celebration.
Lisa Hoffman, Associate Director of the McColl Center, explained how we all came together to support this project.
And I got the good job of announcing all the artists who participated in the quilt. There were 32 quilt blocks made.
And now, the quilt HOME is indeed home. This entire process has made me realize that there is true value for everyone involved if artists get to work with marginalized communities in meaningful ways.Now, how do I make that happen? AGAIN.
This ending is another beginning. I just think that it is.
If you would like to read the complete story about HOME the quilt, the residents of Moore Place, and my community quilt building history, you can by clicking on the following links.
HOME: A First Look at the Moore Place Quilt
Journey to Moore Place
Building a Community Quilt Part I
Ari’s Community Quilt
Creative Cross Pollinations
This quilt is glorious! But the fact that it was made by a community, and that it holds special meaning for all of them, makes it hold special meaning for all of us
Thank you Debby! I love this quilt for that exact reason.
What a great experience for all involved, and a lovely gift of yourself! The quilt is wonderful and will bring joy to many. Thanks for letting us know about this opportunity- it will spark others, I bet.
Jeanne- Thank you! I hope you are right. I am giving at lecture at IQA this fall in Houston with the hopes of sharing this story with more people. I’ve also been thinking a lot about how to recreate this experience for other artists and other marginalized communities. I hope I can do it!
What a fabulous quilt! What JOY is expressed by it!
Thank you Jane!
The quilt is beautiful. A wonderful reflection of the time spent together. Inspiring and exhilirating art.
Ann, that was my hope. I really wanted to embody the experience in the quilt. Thank you for seeing that.
Would be wonderful if we could spread this project around the country………it seems to work!!!! Thanks Maria, for what you did!!!
I’m working on it! I’m giving a lecture this fall at IQA in Houston and hopefully that will spark more interest. I have ideas I just need time! Thank you for stopping by and commenting.
A colossal achievement. Beautiful work!
Pam- Thank you!
Well done, Maria! I totally want to be you when I grow up. Now, as soon as you’re back in town, and I’m back in town…let’s go for that walk. Or go for a drink. Or walk and drink at the same time.
Oh my goodness Amy. Where does the time go? I do like the idea of drinking and walking!
You have done it again. And, I thank you with all my heart. The quilt is absolutely amazing. You have given the people something no one can take away – a beautiful, successful, personal-community experience.
Janie- Thank you so much for those kind words. You should see how proud the tenants are of the quilt. It was truly a wonderful experience.
I love this whole process of bringing people and their stories together through their blocks and a community quilt. Well done, to all who participated!
Thank you Marla!
What a wonderful post – I had not understood the amazing depth of the story (I’m still new to your blog). What a marvelous outcome and experience! (and a very cool quilt, too)
I know! It’s the quilt fun. One of the really interesting things about this project was I wasn’t sure how the tenants would want to express themselves. They all choose joy and gratitude as the primary emotions that they wanted to express. It is really a great thing to have been a part of.
Incredible story and quilt. This is a true testament to the transformative ability of art with heart. Changing the world, one community project at a time.
Penny- That is exactly it! And its part of my life mantra. Thank you!
Fabulous, and the story that goes with it is awesome.
Thank you Linda!
I met you briefly at the McColl Center and was very impressed with your work. I volunteer for the Latin American Women’s Association (www.lawanc.org), who works with Latino students from Elementary to High School and awards scholarships to attend college. For many years it has been our dream to include the parents of these students. We received a grant to start Social gatherings with the parents and our members. In order to encourage the dialogue we are doing arts and crafts, and we started by learning about quilting. Your images and your work inspire me to continue our work to make our Latino newcomers feel included in our Charlotte community. Thanks!
Anneliese- What a great story! Making is a legitimate path to connecting. If you need my help or assistance, please let me know.