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RVCC Robeson Institute to Present Exhibition of Quilts Created by Incarcerated, Free Quilters

originally published: 05/30/2023

RVCC Robeson Institute to Present Exhibition of Quilts Created by Incarcerated, Free Quilters

“The Red Doors of No Return,” by Maureen Kelleher, Kenya, and Sharif (2017, Cotton fabric, cotton batting, thread, 79″ x 67″). Photo courtesy of Maureen Kelleher. Photograph by Max Yawney

(BRANCHBURG, NJ) -- The Paul Robeson Institute for Ethics, Leadership, and Social Justice at Raritan Valley Community College will present “Stitching Time: The Social Justice Collaboration Quilts Project” from June 12 to July 23. The exhibition, which is open to the public, will be on view in the Art Gallery at RVCC’s Branchburg campus.

Curated by Rhonda Stewart and Tamara Jones, the visual art exhibition includes 27 quilts and audio narrations featuring the art of incarcerated men from Angola Prison (also known as Louisiana State Penitentiary) and other correctional facilities.

“Stitching Time” offers a moving, powerful display of quilts, made in collaboration between incarcerated and free quilters. Born more than 10 years ago from a casual phone conversation between two longtime pen pals, Maureen Kelleher (free) and Kenya Baleech Alkebu (a “lifer” in Angola Prison who has been incarcerated for over 43 years), the Project has grown to a hefty assortment of beautiful, social justice-themed quilts, as well as traditional quilts.

The quilts offer examples of the creativity that occurs behind bars, as well as the artistry that can happen when “outside quilters” and “inside quilters” work in collaboration. The quilts create a bridge of understanding between incarcerated and free people, and give quilters a voice and medium through which to express themselves.



 
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In addition to the quilts, the exhibition features audio narrations of the “inside quilters” talking about their artwork.

Since its inception, the Social Justice Collaboration Quilts Project has garnered the support of a number of artists and musicians, including Bruce Springsteen, Patti Scialfa, Peter Gabriel, Taj Mahal, Rosanne Cash, and Michael Franti & Spearhead. Others, including Dr. Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker and Columbia University; Trevor Baldwin, nephew of American writer James Baldwin; supermodel Beverly Johnson; and Buddhist nun, The Venerable Robina Courtin, have lent their support by sitting for a portrait with a quilt.

Gallery hours for “Stitching Time” at RVCC are Monday through Thursday, from 10:00am to 3:00pm, Fridays and Saturdays by appointment only. For additional information or to make an appointment, contact Rhonda Stewart, Program Specialist, Paul Robeson Institute for Ethics, Leadership, and Social Justice, at rhonda.stewart@raritanval.edu.

Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) is located at 118 Lamington Road in Branchburg, New Jersey.


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