LOS ANGELES — Making a quilt takes a lot of time and effort, but it's a lot easier when you have the help of your community. Shelley Heffler is an artist and leads the education programs at SoLA Contemporary, a nonprofit arts organization in South Los Angeles. When the pandemic closed down the gallery, she wanted to ensure the community still had access to arts, so she started a community quilt project called "We Are Home."
"Quilts to me represent comfort and warmth, and it's the blanket that covers you, and it's home," Heffler said.
Heffler invited everyone to participate in the project.
"Home can mean so many different things with a quilt," she said.
Since Heffler wasn't allowed to teach arts in-person, she devised the project, allowing participants to work from home. Originally from New York, she moved to L.A. to work as a painter for a carpet company, so her experience with textiles means she's teaching transferable skills that might help someone find meaningful work.
"When you make a quilt, it's made of pieces of fabric and remnants of things," Heffler said. "And these particular quilts are made from people's idea of what home is to them."
So far, Heffler has received over 100 squares to assemble her community quilt, and more are coming in every day. Ongoing until August 2021, the community quilt will be exhibited at the Lancaster Museum of Art and History. What's most impressive is not just the detail participants have put into creating their quilts but also the diversity of thought and practice.
Dellis Frank is a board member of SoLA Contemporary.
"Out of all of the pieces, and there are a lot of them, they all have their own interpretation of home," said Dellis, referring to one piece in particular. "This one speaks to me the most, a community home where you have lots of kids crammed into a small space, an overworked caretaker, but it's still home."
Karena Massengill is an artist and created two squares for the project.
"I feel this whole project, in our little way, will help all the people that are creating these works," Massengill said. "We're all suffering now, and it helps us to feel connected and like we're contributing."
Heffler said she hopes that the quilts will find homes of their own. Next year, the pieces will be auctioned, with proceeds being donated to The People Concern, a nonprofit that assists the people without homes in transitioning into housing.
"The money will be donated to the homeless organizations, but my biggest hope is that it brings us as a community together," Heffler said.