To launch their grand opening April 1, the Three Sisters Cultural Centre in St. Jacobs will be hosting an exhibit called ‘Moving Forward: from behind the mask.’
Marking the end of two years since the start of the pandemic, the exhibit will feature the Community Quilt. Curated by Brenda Reid, it showcases the product that saw people in the area submit a quilt block the size of a face mask to reflect on the biggest changes to their lives due to the COVID-19 crisis.
“The community loved this quilt project that could really bring us together and make a big piece, a remembrance piece as well,” noted Reid.
She recently graduated from the University of Waterloo School of Architecture and is now an emerging artist out of Kitchener. The idea for the quilt was based on a thesis for a university project; she enjoyed creating it so much she kept at it past the due date.
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The idea was launched in October 2020, asking residents what has changed the most in their life since March 2020 when the first lockdown in Ontario started. They collected entries from residents until April of last year.
“It’s really interesting because it documents a really specific time in the pandemic. It was the first winter and things were still kind of very unclear as to how everything works. I think in some ways it was a harsher time, because it was the first for everything,” she explained.
“The quilt was made between October 2020 and April 2021, and it’s already part of the pandemic that my brain has tried to forget. So when I look at the blocks and I look at different things, they’re picking up on really specific things that were happening – one has mentioned the yeast shortage where everyone was making sourdough; there’s the toilet paper shortages; the first Christmas holidays on Zoom, things like that. It’s already so interesting to look back and also see like what’s changed and what’s not changed,” said Reid.
The community quilt is made up of 569 pieces, all sent to Reid from around the region. The project was sponsored by the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund and Love My Hood.
“When the pieces came together for us as a community to reflect and realize that everybody truly does have a different experience and we could sort of use it as a way of making empathetic space. So you can really see how everybody was being affected differently. Some of the really hard ones are the ones that are in remembrance of a loved one who died from COVID. We had a few come from the women’s prison in Kitchener and those ones really like touched me deeply.”
Wanting to represent the diversity from one house to another, the experiences of the pandemic from one person to another, Reid opted to lay the blocks out in no particular pattern or theme.
After travelling to a few galleries around the region, the community quilt will be on display as part of Three Sisters Cultural Centre’s grand opening from April 1 to 10.
“This exhibition is in celebration, or I guess in commemoration maybe of the two-year anniversary of the beginning of the pandemic. So Jax [Rula]and I sort of met through Instagram and decided this would be a really cool thing to go with their new cultural community center opening around that time.”
Moving Forward was sponsored by Woolwich Township, the Waterloo Region Arts Fund and the City of Waterloo, making the exhibit free for everyone.
“If the village is open for retail hours, come in, walk through the exhibit, see the quilt, see all the art and see our centre. On [April 9] we’ll have an award ceremony so you can come in and see the event space being used the way we’d like it to be used and can participate in an art show and sale,” said Jax Rula, artistic director of Three Sisters Cultural Centre.
The grand opening exhibit will host a variety of workshops, an interactive drumming circle and a juried art show and sale, as well as featuring the community quilt for people to enjoy as they look back on the last two years.
“The community quilts will be joined with a juried art show where the artists were asked the question, ‘how are we going to move forward from this?’ There’ll be that plus there will be workshops: fibre arts workshops, art therapy workshop, a watercolor workshop, felting workshops that will take place in the centre during that time. The whole exhibit will be not only us coming out into the world because we built the centre during the pandemic essentially, but asking the question, ‘how do we move forward from this?’”