Students Create Historical Quilt for Mock Primary Election

January 10, 2020

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Throughout the festivities of the 16th Mock Primary Election (MPE) on Tuesday, audiences will view a stunning work of collaborative art. Upper School students in Eliza McFeely’s minor course, MPE Quilt, created a quilt entitled The Face of America over several months; it will hang behind candidates and speakers in the Baiada Field House Gym during MPE. This undertaking brought together the creative talents of (pictured clockwise from bottom left): Leo Zhang ’22, Todd Zhang ’21, Chris Little ’21, Jamie Neff ’21, McFeely, and seven U.S. History classes who contributed photos.

With a few exceptions, the quilt intentionally depicts portraits of people who are not well-known. History classes combed the Library of Congress online archives for photos of particular groups related to their studies (for example, a class in the midst of a unit on Native Americans searched for pictures of Native American citizens). McFeely and the students wanted to ensure that the quilt reflected the “melting pot” of the United States. This meant varying the placement of images so many different groups of Americans were shown throughout the piece.

“We avoided putting pictures of one ethnic group all together, or putting one gender together,” Todd explained. “We felt the quilt should be arranged reasonably to represent the diversity of the U.S. as a society.”

Students created each square image by cutting sheets of freezer paper and pressing them onto muslin (a cotton fabric) with a hot iron. The sheets were then run through an inkjet printer and left out to dry before arrangement and sewing. Woodworking & 3D Design Teacher Erik Curtis and Computer Technology Support Specialist Pauline Jones assisted with these stages of the process. Students sewed the quilt’s colorful patterns from recycled fabric strips, and settled on an image of a world map for the back of the piece.

McFeely views the project as an example of storytelling through art. “Old-fashioned quilts are, in their own way, stories,” she said. “They took any clothing that was too worn to wear and cut up the still-good pieces. So every piece of quilt was sort of a family story.” With The Face of America, students have crafted a visual story of the many individuals and families that comprise the United States.