September 11, 2001 – an historical day, an event so shocking, it brought an entire nation to her knees. Quilts have often found themselves in the midst of historical events as a symbol of comfort, a keeper of secrets, a teller of stories and the embodiment of emotions of the artisans who create them. And so, in loving memory, The Freedom Quilt Experience was commissioned in 2011. The original idea was to make one giant quilt to accompany a display of World Trade Center artifacts, but the project took on a life of its own.
The installation was made from ten unique quilt panels. When put together, the
quilt panels form a display 16 feet high and nearly 30 feet wide. Each
panel was designed and sewn together by a different individual or quilt
guild. Cynthia Martin, the designer and curator, came up with the concept and overall design but turned it over to the quilters to choose the fabric and the block patterns. The two center panels mimic the two shafts of light that shoot into the night sky, reminding us of the Twin Towers.
Terry Gonzales, who made two of the quilts, said: "I couldn't sleep after I got the material for the first quilt. It was calling me to work
on it and I worked on it every moment I could... I wanted them to be
healing. That's what I kept thinking." And quilter Priscilla Brown said: "It was so emotional. To have a tear fall as you're working, that was completely unexpected, in some ways. We're so removed from it, but still so tied to it."
The Freedom Quilt Experience, panel # 4: Strength, designed and pieced by Karen Von Phul
Quilter Karen Von Phul, who designed panel #4, says: "When I was asked to participate in the Freedom Quilt Experience I was honored and proud. I knew I wanted stars in this panel . . . I wanted people's eyes to look upon the stars as we look to God for our strength."
Cynthia Martin, who curated the project, says: "The strength and resilience of the human spirit is something that can be stretched, it can be bent, but it can never be broken. September 11, 2001 is a reminder that there are still people who are willing to risk their lives to save others. It proved that even with all of our differences, we have the ability to stand together as a nation."
Image credits and links: The Freedom Quilt eventually will reside in the 9/11 museum at Ground Zero. The quilts were made by local fiber artists and quilting guilds in Colorado, including Karen von Phul, Helen Kearney and Netta Toll, the Rocky Mountain Wa Shonaji Quilt Guild, the African American Quilters and Collectors Guild and Matt and Judy Lanza, owners of A Better Quilt Inc. The Lanzas took all the piecework, added the batting and backing and did the actual quilting. For more information, see A Better Quilt and the article by Tina Griego for the Denver Post: Quilt display in Colorado Capitol a magnificent comfort.