Paducah's National Quilt Museum Presents Quarantine Quilts: Creativity in the Midst of Chaos
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced us indoors in March of 2020, we coped in different ways. Some renovated their homes; others baked. Others still turned to their sewing machines to create through the chaos.
Sandra Sider, quilt artist and curator of "Quarantine Quilts: Creativity in the Midst of Chaos," was one such individual. "I'm in a big network of people who are quilt and fiber artists. So, I just started putting out a call to e-mail: what are you doing? How are you doing?"
"It sort of went viral," she continues. "And then I started thinking, well, maybe we should have some kind of documentation. Everybody's doing Twitter, everybody's doing Instagram, and I'm thinking 50 years from now, what will remain of this? How much of this documentation evidence of what we suffered through will remain?"
Sider ordered books on the 1918 pandemic, looking for primary sources of the 20th-century pandemic experience. When she couldn't find much documentation, she proposed a type of permanent documentation to her editor.
"I think this should be a book," Sider recalls. "My editor [agreed], and that got the ball rolling. We put out a formal call. I had over 200 people send me images...of which I chose 27. People just dropped what they were doing or started doing something if they were just staring at the wall. "
The formal quilt call was originally intended for the Houston Quilt Festival, but the event was cancelled due to COVID-19. Sider then reached out to Paducah's National Quilt Museum, which agreed to show the exhibit this summer.
Of the over 200 quilts submissions, Sider chose 97 to include in the "Quarantine Quilt" book. Each featured artist included a narrative about their fiber art piece.
Sider quotes a particularly striking narrative from fiber artist Victoria Findlay Wolfe. "I was swirling around inside, not being able to focus those first few weeks in early March," Sider reads. "I really needed something tangible to say, that is what I'm feeling. I find quilt making to be the best way to get anxiety out of my body and head."
"I thought it was a really true, honest, authentic voice coming out of all this," Sider comments. And in general, Sider was struck by the massive outpouring of contributions from the international quilting community.
"It was a groundswell of people working in art. I tried to talk about that a little bit in my introduction to the book. I also tried to give a background. I think it's important that we all understand that humanity has always lived with plagues. We should be better prepared to deal with it. That's sort of, in a nutshell, what the whole book project was about and the exhibit that got the whole thing going."
"Quarantine Quilts" is on display at the National Quilt Museum now through August 31st. The exhibit can be seen during the museum's normal business hours. For more information, visit the National Quilt Museum website.