A Quilt of Commitment

Last December, Middlesex’s original theatre production, the Racial Equity Project (REP), thoughtfully showed how racism can be pervasive in many everyday conversations. At the end of the play, audience members on Zoom were asked to consider and then type in an action they intended to take to combat racism, completing the phrase, “I will….”

In February, as part of the School’s observance of Black History Month, the community was encouraged to circle back to those pledges and express them in a new way on small, colorful squares of paper. Over a period of three weeks, Visual Arts Department Head Stacey McCarthy, Art History teacher Sarah Munro, and Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Erika Prahl – along with student and faculty helpers – assembled hundreds of these pieces together to form a vibrant, intricate quilt in the Ishibashi Gallery.

“I wanted people to revisit their ‘I Will’ statements and recommit to them,” says Erika, who offered input (with Performing Arts Head Tom Kane) as REP was being written. “Stacey had the idea of a quilt; she had a vision for how she wanted to execute it, and the community leaned into it in a beautiful way. You can spend hours looking at it.”

Given that the Black tradition of quilting is an old one – often used as a way to preserve stories of migration and settlement – connecting with this rich history seemed an appropriate and creative way for Middlesex to continue the work of becoming a truly inclusive and equitable school.  “I love community endeavors,” Stacey says, “and I think the quilt was the answer. It’s visual, and you can marry an exceptional image next to a square made by someone who was more comfortable expressing themselves with language.” Interspersed among the illustrations are many words: Listen and Learn, Be an Ally, Change.

“There are so many contemporary artists using quilting to make very powerful statements,” Stacey adds. “So, this connects history and art and the work we need to do. I stated that the quilt was complete, but I think it’s really just the beginning of a process.”