Women, Peace and Security Quilts at Gender Conference

by Allison Wilbur on November 17, 2015

Dick and I are both graduates of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University (in fact that is where we met!). We recently learned that the Fletcher School will be holding a conference on gender December 4 -5, and so we contacted the organizers and offered the Women, Peace and Security Quilt Exhibit for display. The response was gratifyingly welcome and inclusive of three Advocacy Project quilts dealing with gender as well.  In fact, conference organizers are talking about asking students to write written responses to the quilts in the build up to the conference. It has been a goal of ours to reach out to a university setting with the quilt exhibits and we feel so fortunate to have the exhibit included at the conference in such a meaningful way.

I often think that if I were able to go back to graduate school and redo my education, I would focus on gender (my concentrations were in Communist Studies and Asian Studies and my thesis was on Soviet-Japanese relations). Instead I have sought out education in non-traditional ways. Each quilt exhibit has been like a course of its own.  In order to write the call for entry for each challenge, we have needed to come up to speed that topic; we can’t get artists excited about a challenge unless we can clearly explain why the topic is compelling. As we have tried to incorporate activism as well as awareness raising in each challenge, we have had to delve deeply into each theme. And then the quilts arrive – and we learn on a whole new level. I always find it astounding that each quilt is so individual and that rarely if ever is there a duplication of topics. That is the beauty of a quilt challenge. Each artist’s interpretation is based on their unique perspective and understanding. I welcome this conference as an opportunity to share what I have learned and to build a reading list of books, online courses and websites so that I can better understand how our world is changing.

Our eldest son is now a senior in college and I tell him that life is a journey. I never could have predicted where my journey would take me – Russia, Japan, Tunisia, Kuwait, Oman, Switzerland, in and out of the DC area and back to New England. Nor that I would bend away from academia and back towards the artist roots my mother planted in my soul. Each step in the journey seemed a “logical” next step, often in response to where our collective lives as a family were taking us. Decisions were also often driven by what seemed limited choices dictated by our nomadic lifestyle. What looks like a planned path in hindsight could never have been predicted. Certainly Fletcher did not accept me as a student thinking that I would become a quilt artist! I am as surprised as anyone that I am returning to Fletcher with a quilt exhibit.

As Thanksgiving approaches I ponder the support network that has helped me lead this crazy, extraordinary life.  My mother once said (talking about one of our sons at a particularly trying time), “Stubborn people get far in life.” I am thankful that those around me have let me take stubborn hold of my dreams, often to the exclusion of more mundane tasks. And thankful to the other artists who have chosen to take this journey with us. I have formed friendships through Quilt for Change that are deep, meaningful and help my creative soul flourish. Organizing group exhibits with large international organizations as partners has been both challenging and tremendously rewarding, and it is the voices of artists and viewers of the exhibits that sustain me when the bureaucracy gets me down.

Water is Life will open at the United Nations in Geneva in March 2016 with the largest number of quilts to date in any exhibit. We are so excited to share these quilts with the world. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and our blog (and don’t forget to share our posts to help spread the word!!).

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