Invitation: The Quilt of Belonging

Public Embraces Quilt of Belonging
By Meredith Royds
CQA/ACC - Autumn 2005

As Invitation: The Quilt of Belonging begins its four-year national tour, we receive this update from the Invitation Project's former communications officer, Meredith Royds.

Awesome…In its true meaning, that is the word that escapes from the lips of visitors to the travelling exhibition of Invitation: The Quilt of Belonging. Since the gala launch of its national tour at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau-Hull, Quebec, on April 1, 2005, the Quilt has received over thirty thousand viewers from widely diverse backgrounds. Among the gala's 1,000 guests were many blockmakers who had travelled from all points in Canada to attend the opening.

The reaction to the Quilt has been the same at all its exhibits to date: People stand in silence, their breath taken away by the sheer magnitude of the tapestry. Just as likely, animated conversations between complete strangers break out while they seek "their" country blocks among the 263 intricate pieces of fabric art. Both male and female visitors gaze at the inspiring spectrum of colours, examining details of every imaginable form of textile and needlework representing every nation in the world. It includes over 70 of Canada's First Nations, Inuit and Métis whose blocks form the foundation row of the Quilt. Many visitors, awed by the fluid appearance of the 120-foot vista, admit to playing a game of "find the seams" for the eight large panels that in fact make up the Quilt.

"The completed Quilt is affecting people to their very cores, in ways we could not have imagined," says artist and Invitation Project coordinator, Esther Bryan. "The completed quilt, with its many parts, shows that we all can be integrated into the fabric of Canada, living together harmoniously, learning to respect one another for our differences while celebrating what we have in common."

Emotions tend to run high as viewers stand before the Quilt. "You can feel the … Spirit…of the pieces," said quietly one visitor from Australia. It was her first trip outside her homeland, and she was deeply moved by the Quilt of Belonging. "I will take back so many wonderful memories, but this will be foremost among them."

Esther confirms negotiations are underway in major centres in every province for the Quilt to be shown in the coming years. It will be on view at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, throughout July and August 2005. Then it will be hosted by the Room's Provincial Museum in St. John's, Newfoundland from September 19 until the end of the year.

The Quilt also will make stops in Arctic communities from Labrador to the Yukon between January and March 2006. In announcing their support and sponsorship of the northern tour, Jose Kusugak, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said, "Inuit aren't just first Canadians, they are Canadians first. We must see the Quilt too."

The first 5,000-copy print run of the 296-page, full-colour book about the project, the blocks and the blockmakers, entitled Quilt of Belonging, The Invitation Project has nearly sold out in just a few months, qualifying it as a "best seller." Boston Mills Press publisher John Denison said that it was "amazing for this kind of Canadian book." A revised version has been sent to press for a second printing.

Teachers in Cornwall, Ontario, are using the book as a special treat for work well done. "The children love the stories," reports fifth-grade teacher Margo Jankowski. A children's book is underway as well, to be published by Maple Tree Press in 2006. This will include instruction for children to build their own "fabric histories."

"We hear of Invitation being embraced in the most unexpected and interesting ways," notes Esther. "We received a copy of a paper presented recently by a university professor from Brazil who reported to an international ESL conference (English as a second language) in Cardiff, Wales, that she and thirty teachers in her Linguistic and Literature Studies program were using the Invitation web site in their study of English, because of its interesting cultural content."

To learn more for yourself about the project, the tour and the book, visit:

Invitation Project