Hannah Brancato was an advisor to both Claire & myself in graduate school. She gave us a great deal of insight on how to work with & alongside community. I know I came to her many days totally unknowing of what my future had in store for me, but she always had the right words & advice to give me to calm me down & press on. Hannah, is the co-founder along with Rebecca Nagle of FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture. Here in the words of FORCE:
"The Monument Quilt was founded in 2013 by the artist and activist group FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture. FORCE was founded in 2010 by co-directors Hannah Brancato and Rebecca Nagle who both believe in the power of art to advance social justice and are both community organizers, activists, and artists living and working in Baltimore, MD. The Monument Quilt is an on-going collection of stories from survivors of sexual and domestic violence, designed to build a new culture where survivors are publicly supported, rather than publicly shamed. Written, stitched, and painted onto red fabric, our stories literally blanket city and town centers to create and demand public space to heal. As the quilt continues to grow, survivors, loved ones and supporters are encouraged to make a square through workshops facilitated by leaders across the country. The workshops are a space to learn about how to support survivors in our communities. After touring the country, the quilt will blanket the National Mall in fall 2017."
1. How long have you been in this current space and how has your arts practice affected it?
We moved in November 2015. Prior to this we were in a large warehouse space then another smaller art studio/warehouse space. A more finished environment makes the space more accessible to folks with disabilities, people of various ages, and volunteers in general. It's a cozy place to be and it's easy to get to! For our art practice, that's key, because the Monument Quilt needs many hands.
2. What do you require logistically to create a usable space?
As a community art project, with so many people using this space it's really important for everything to be organized! It's also really important for this to be a safe space because it's impossible for people to just get work done if people don't have room to process their own experiences and the stories they read.
3. What are some of the reasons why you have a space dedicated to your making practice?
I can't imagine how we'd make the Quilt happen without a space!! Not only did we need a space to be able to sew up such large squares, but we needed a safe and inviting space for survivors and allies to come to. The studio acts as a hub for our various outreaching projects through FORCE. It's nice to have this space to make work, run meetings, and do all that tedious computer work!
4. What kind of sacred space(s) do you have in your studio – is it an altar, a meditation space, a nice moment of repose?
One of the biggest focal points in the studio are our ground rules, which help people navigate how to interact with the quilt and with other people in the space. Being in the Quilt studio and working on this project we use rituals. For instance we have stones that people can pick up when they enter the space. Then, when they leave, they can also leave behind some of what comes up when they are here. We also have a reflection area where people can take a break if they need to and we have some sage we use to cleanse the space on occassion.
5. What was the greatest feat that you overcame in this space?
Getting people into the space on a regular basis. It's meant for lots of different people to work in here, so when it's just one or two of us the place doesn't feel complete. Lately we've been having big groups of volunteers come in from schools and organizations, so hopefully we can keep up that momentum. We rely a lot on our interns and regular volunteers but those one time groups take the pressure off!
6. What are you excited about in the future?
Volunteer days! If you and your friends know how to sew, we need YOU to come and work with us in the studio for a volunteer day. Email Shanti.firstname.lastname@example.org
April 9th event, come see the quilt on North Ave!
We're always accepting donations of fabric or other materials ... here's our amazon wish list! https://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/1EJH64K9P8928/ref=cm_sw_su_w
Thank you so much for letting us stop by & glean even more advice and inspiration from your work. We will definitely be at the blanketing event of North Ave. If anyone reading this is in Baltimore, you should seriously consider coming and viewing this work. It has a presence that is palpable. Maybe we will see some of y'all there!
With love & beauty,
Ashton & Claire
Posted on a Last Quarter Moon