New initiative asks public to create quilt squares
By Betsy Scotto-Lavino
Phyllis Liedtke has lived through other national scares around illness. She recalled the fear of contracting smallpox in the 1940s, and how New York mobilized to vaccinate residents.
“It was quite amazing. Every single one of us received a vaccination within a week or so. I don’t remember anything quite like COVID.”
With 95 years of memories from which to choose, that is not a light statement. The stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression, and World War II were among those she noted. Doing her part to help in a crisis was always her response, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no different.
“People of my generation are geared to do that. ‘What can we do?’” She said with a smile and gentle shrug.
Inspired by US tradition of honor quilts
Liedtke’s daughter, Diane Canney, an artist and business owner in Loudoun County, Virginia, took this question seriously. Drawing on a tradition that is hundreds of years old, Canney came up with the COVID-19 US Honor Quilt project.
With the support of local arts council Loudoun Arts and the Artistic Fuel Foundation, Canney is inviting local artists and community members to design a 10-by-10-inch quilt panel to honor first responders, to convey the experience of the pandemic, or to honor those who suffered or died due to COVID-19. Each panel will focus on a particular theme, organization, or individual person. These panels will then be assembled into quilts by volunteers.
“Quilts are an interesting part of the fabric of our history,” Canney said. “Quilts were made when a child died. They wrapped them in these quilts. Valor quilts are made for veterans. They are a symbol of warmth, compassion, and unity.”
She sees this project starting with individual squares. “I see these quilt squares being turned into individual pieces of art that then becomes movable art and can be put into museums for display,” Canney added. “ People can also view them online, a safe way to see them during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
While valor quilts are typically designed for an individual, Canney envisions these quilts as something for the community to view and experience.
Squares can be designed by anyone, regardless of skill level
When asked how she responded to the quilting project, Liedtke called it a “marvelous idea” even while admitting, “I haven’t a clue about quilting,” she chuckled. “The thing I’m really good at is knitting.”
However, her daughter, Canney, notes that highly technical skills are not required for this project.
“We were looking for something that was easy for people to do, that was affordable, and transportable. You can be 5 or, in my mother’s case, 95.”
Liedtke displayed a panel that she had already assembled using a beach theme, a personal photo of her and her husband, as well as a message of gratitude to the medical caregivers taking care of both of them in their retirement community.
“They could not do more,” Liedtke said. “ If you have to see the doctor, you can do a lot of it online now. But if you have to go in person, they provide transportation. They give us menus now and our breakfast, lunch, and dinner are delivered. I feel really safe.”
Quilt tagline: together, we will heal
Honoring the first responders of COVID-19 was a big focus for Canney.
“This has happened so quickly in such a narrow amount of time. It’s hard to fathom that and capture that in an appropriate way before we forget this. I see it as a kind of fabric time capsule of this moment in our country.”
For those who have lost a loved one, Canney and Liedtke hope that the creative expression will bring some comfort. Liedtke commented, “I don’t think there’s ever real closure (when you lose someone). But I do think that art helps to heal grief.”
In making her own panel, Liedtke described, “I felt like I was doing something. Something that will always be there. Hopefully, the squares will be a form of solace as well.”