Friday, June 13, 2014

The Monument Quilt

My name is Karyn Lao and I am a Junior Fiber Major with Concentrations in both Interactive Arts and Sustainability & Social Practice. This spring, I had the opportunity to intern for The Monument Quilt. The Monument Quilt is a public healing space by and for survivors of rape and abuse. Stories of survivors are stitched together to not only create a platform to share, but to create a new culture where survivors are publicly supported, rather than publicly shamed. In 2016, the thousands of quilt squares that are collected will blanket over one mile of the National Mall to spell “NOT ALONE”. I learned about internship and volunteer opportunities for The Monument Quilt after I backed their Kickstarter in the summer of 2013. Prior to the Kickstarter, I knew about the project from co-founder, Hannah Brancato who was also my Art Matters teacher when I was a Foundation student. I submitted a cover letter and resume to Hannah and had a phone interview scheduled a week after before I was assigned as a Studio Intern and Volunteer Coordinator.

Throughout the internship, my responsibilities at The Monument Quilt developed as the studio began to take shape and breathe a life of its own. At the beginning stages, I, along with other volunteers, helped clean, paint, and furnish what
was once the old Station North Thrift Store. I helped figure out the layout of the studio as well as come up with systems for the quilts to be backed, grommet, and ready for display. It was busy during the first 2 months as we were preparing for the One Billion Rising event in DC. For that event, we had to present the first 25 quilts, as well as sew other components that would accompany the stories submitted. I was in charge of sewing three interactive blankets that people could sit, write and reflect when the quilts were displayed. After OBR, most of the time in the studio was spent organizing materials in the space by building shelves, assembling boxes, and storing the blankets. Now that the studio is presentable, I have spent more time coming up with ways to recruit volunteers into the space. For the month of April, we hosted Saturday workshops where people can come in and make their own quilt squares.


It is amazing to think how far the project has come! At the start of the internship, I was painting the walls of an old thrift store and now we are holding workshops for groups to come together to share, heal, and support. This experience has taught me the importance of unity and the people-power it takes to run a completely volunteer, non-profit project. I cherish the relationships that I have built over the past 5 months. I thank Hannah for our discussions for they have helped me articulate my practice as community artist and growth as an individual. I proudly continue to volunteer for The Monument Quilt to fight for safe spaces and to remind
individuals that they are not alone.

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