Last spring I was thumbing through one of my professional magazines, Surface Design, when I noticed a small ad in the back for a national art quilt exhibition, Sacred Threads. The word sacred jumped off the page at me, because it is rare to see an exhibition that includes anything hinting of spiritual content. While you and I might find that surprising, because we know that creating often comes from a spiritual place, it is an anomaly in the art world. Most nonprofit galleries cannot accept government or grant funds if they have any kind of religious connection and most private, for-profit galleries also shy away from spiritual content because it is less commercial and can be controversial. When we first formed the arts ministry here at West Raleigh five years ago, among the reasons that we cited was “to offer our own members and other artists in the area the opportunity to exhibit artworks of a spiritual nature.”
When I saw the Sacred Threads ad, I did some research and learned that the primary purpose of this exhibition was “to provide a safe venue for quilters who see their work as a connection to the sacred and/or as a connection to their spiritual journey.” They desired an exhibition that wouldn’t emphasize any particular religion or theology but convey the spirituality, healing and inspirational messages that transcend all people. And they wanted to give participating artists a chance to write or record the inspiration for their work. Founded in 1999 by a small group of women, the show has grown to include more than 300 quilts exhibited in Herndon, VA in July 2017. A small subset of the quilts, 36, is traveling across the U.S. until the next exhibition is held in 2019.
I invite each of you to spend time with these 36 quilts and find the ones that connect with you on your spiritual journey. Each week we will feature 2-3 of the quilts along with commentary from their makers in the e-news for those of you who are unable to make it to church to see them. I encourage you to use the Sacred Threads exhibition as a convenient way to invite your friends and colleagues to visit West Raleigh with you.
Please join us and bring your friends of all ages to the Exhibit Opening on January 13 from 5-7 p.m. We will enjoy musical selections on piano and flute by Melanie and Caroline Dittus and delectable food and cider from our artful bakers. The show will be on view Tuesday through Friday from 8:30 to 3:30 through February 22 for visits and of course on Sundays.
This is the first time the West Raleigh has hosted an exhibition of work not created by local artists, but upon discussion, the Arts Team agreed that while it wasn’t in our original scope, we wanted to host this show. After all, we share a common mission, and we felt the opportunity to see works from artists across the country could bring us and our community fresh perspective and inspiration. West Raleigh is the fourth stop of 10 locations.
I think I can speak for the Arts Team when I say that the work is even more wonderful than any of us could have imagined. The scope is broad ranging from small quiet meditations on very personal themes to very graphic depictions of current public events to non-objective contemplative spaces and more. There is something everyone can relate to. Each of us has found our favorites, the ones that speak to our own grief, our own joy, and our own hopes. Some are intimate and delicate, meant to be seen up close to appreciate the subtle details in the fabric dyes, stitching, handwriting, and decorative details. Others shout to us from across the room, commanding our attention with their bright colors and graphic juxtapositions. Some achieve both in the same work. Imagery ranges from depictions of nature, people, relationships, life events and more. The show is organized by six themes: spirituality, joy, brotherhood and peace, grief, healing, and inspiration.
I think we all can appreciate that these art quilts were conceived, planned, and lovingly made by hand and machine, each one representing tens if not hundreds of hours of repetitive actions. Making a quilt is not something one does for a quick reward. It is a long and hopeful process that requires commitment to see it through to the last stitch. That kind of commitment can create a space for regular reflection and meditation, and helps one develop patience while working towards a long term goal. I believe that many of us are longing for these quiet contemplative times in our own lives. If you are like me, most days it feels like my technological “time savers” like cell phones, social media, and on-demand programming are controlling me and keeping me from more important things like building long term relationships and making time for quiet reading and meditation or making art. For me, these quilts are beautiful physical prayers in fabric that speak to the value of using our own hands and hearts to find meaning in the simple acts and dailyness of life. They inspire me to consider how I am choosing to use my time.
To learn more about the Sacred Threads exhibition, visit the website: www.sacredthreadsquilts.com