The Social Justice Sewing Academy: Connecting Generations through Cloth

Friday, May 28 – Sep 12, 2021

756 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60642

From quilts supporting abolition and temperance to signature quilts made to raise money for war efforts to the AIDS Memorial Quilt, quilts have long expressed political beliefs and supported social causes. As quilt scholar Marsha MacDowell said, “Many people think of quilts as a warm, fuzzy domestic art. Yet we see time and time again, artists have used this particular medium to make strong statements that address human rights issues.” Most often, quilts with a message are made by adults, but, today, the tradition of quilting for social justice is being introduced to young artivists—or artist-activists—who pick up a needle and thread for the first time and learn to see quilts in a new way.

Accompanying the exhibition Trauma and Loss, Reflection and Hope, Intuit is pleased to partner with the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA) to display textiles created by the program’s young artivists. Founded in 2017, SJSA is a youth education program that bridges artistic expression with activism to advocate for social justice. Through hands-on workshops across the country, SJSA empowers youth to use textile art as a vehicle for personal transformation and community cohesion to become agents of social change. Hung near the museum’s entrance are banners and quilts from the program’s Community Quilts and Remembrance Project workshops.

Each SJSA Community Quilt is made of blocks designed and created by untrained youth participants and offers a look at the varied issues significant to them. Stitched into each artivist’s quilt blocks are senses of wanting more for their lives and hope for a better and more just society. These powerful blocks are then sent to embroidery volunteers who add embellishments to each block and learn more about what matters to young people. The quilts are assembled by volunteer quilters, creating a bridge of learning and understanding between generations.