Quilting has been a staple in American arts and crafts for centuries. Many women made quilts to keep their families warm or decorate their homes. Throughout history, quilters have used quilts to raise money for social causes, memorialize their communities’ experience, or to comment on political themes.
For example, indigenous artist Carla Hemlock’s quilts highlight environmental justice and sovereignty issues affecting Native Americans. Bisa Butler’s artwork transforms photographs of lay people and iconic leaders in African American communities into stunning fabric portraits. Terese Agnew makes quilts that shine a light on working conditions and other labor issues. The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt – perhaps the most famous community quilt project – started in the 1980s to urge the U.S. federal government to act on the HIV/AIDs crisis.
Inspired by this legacy, Racial Justice Leader-in-Residence Bianca Guerrero led a community quilt project during the Spring 2023 semester. Over twelve weeks, students learned to sew and created a mini-quilt of their own design. Many of their works honor their personal or college experiences, while other works reflect their future goals.
Their artwork now proudly hangs in the new Colin Powell School student center in NAC 6/289. Learn more about each piece below!
This video is produced by Ana Maldonado (Class of 2023) is an NBCU Academy Fellow majoring in Film and minoring in Journalism.
Mechanical Engineering, Class of 2023
I chose to sew mushrooms on my quilt because they represent my experience of being non-binary. They also highlight the diversity of the people at CCNY by using many different colored fabrics for each piece. The fabric colors are different – like how people can be different – but still look vibrant when placed together demonstrates how you don’t have to work to fit in a mold to succeed. I hope future CCNY students stay firm to being themselves.
Business Administration, Class of 2023
I love to sew. I make clothes and bags, and tailor items for myself and others. I was looking for a creative outlet in CCNY because my degree in business is not in the arts: this project was perfect. I picked these symbols to represent the next stage of my life: following graduation, I plan to incorporate my creative side with future business endeavors.
Art History & Museum Education, Class of 2024
Last semester I was in a class called Art and Community Engagement where we developed an art project to give back to the City College community. We made affirmation cards as an end of semester pick me up, and had keys where people could write down what was weighing on them and let it go. The development and execution of this project will definitely be one of my lasting memories from my time at to City College.
Psychology, Class of 2026
I designed this quilt to resemble the Hell’s Gate bridge in Astoria Park at night. I see this view on my commute home every day, and I grew up in the area so I have a lot of good memories in that park. I joined this project to step out of my comfort zone and learn a new skill. This project also inspired me to learn more about the amazing history of quilting in the U.S. It has been an amazing experience overall and I’m so grateful for all of the patience and help I received.
Education, Class of 2024
I joined the Quilting project to foster a sense of community. It was my inaugural extracurricular activity on campus and I aimed to make new friends while expanding my horizons. My quilt features a stack of books with one wide open, symbolizing the idea that knowledge broadens access. Throughout my college journey, I have acquired valuable insights and opportunities with each passing semester. I hope that future CCNY students will continue to explore new experiences and embrace growth.
Political Science & Sociology, Class of 2023
I chose to make a quilt about the CCNY Dream Team, the first safe space and community I found on campus. The Dream Team is a group led by undocumented students who engage in outreach, activism, and education around issues relevant to immigrants. I joined in this project because this is my last semester and I wanted to explore new artistic skills. For students who are busy bees, quilting is a creative way to feel productive while designing items for yourself or someone you care about.
International Studies, Class of 2023
I came up with this design while looking toward Convent Avenue from the North Academic Center (NAC). I spent most of my class time since the spring of 2022 in the NAC and it started to feel like home. I wanted to commemorate the place where I learned the most and felt the most comfortable on campus. The quilt features a cherry blossom tree, one of my favorite parts of City College’s campus especially when in bloom. The shapes behind the tree mimic the pattern on the ground in the NAC’s entrance.
Psychology, Class of 2024
I joined this project to learn how to sew and because I hadn’t joined any club or project at CCNY before. My quilt is inspired by my mom. I chose earthy toned colors because my mom is a Taurus (an earth sign) and the Venus symbol (since Taurus is ruled by Venus in astrology). The solid colors reflect how reliable and solid my mother is. I included a triangle with pink lace to represent air, my star sign element. It was an honor to be a part of such a cool project. It was amazing to be surrounded by like-minded women who were very supportive, friendly, and most of all a lot of fun.
Sociology, Class of 2025
I don’t consider myself an artistic or creative person, so I joined this project to change that. My quilt design is inspired by a barn star quilt. I like the straight lines and shapes, and the simplicity of the design. The fabrics I chose had floral and plant designs, as well as green and brown stripes. Even with the distinctive patterns they don’t clash. I hope future CCNY students are able to find community in fun projects like this one in the future.
Psychology, Class of 2023
I wanted my last semester at CCNY to be something memorable and fun, so I am glad this project existed. My quilt has a Chinese character in between two Koi fish. The Chinese character is usually seen on Chinese calendars and it means “good luck,” Koi fish also symbolize good luck and good health. I am a Pisces, which also explains why there are 2 fish! I hope this quilt encourages students to work hard in whatever path they want to be in, and to leave space for fun memories at CCNY.
We would like to thank the Yonkers Public Library and Arts Westchester for loaning us sewing machines at no cost for this project, and for FABSCRAP for generous donations of fabric. We would also like to thank the Brooklyn Public Library and New York Metro Modern Quilt Guild members Jeannine Bennett and Caroline Pomietlarz for generous donations of tools and materials.
This project would not have been possible without these organizations and individuals!