Nuala Pell Leadership students bring Advocacy Quilts exhibit to RI, launch global call for mercy

Salve Regina University will host an exhibition of 18 advocacy quilts that expose injustice around the world and also make a powerful plea for compassion. Open to the public, the exhibition, “A Global Call for Mercy - Vulnerable Communities Speak Out Through Quilts,” will run from March 8-16 with a reception on March 10 at Ochre Court, 100 Ochre Point Ave.

It is being organized by students in the Nuala Pell Leadership Program at Salve Regina in response to the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, a year-long campaign for social justice launched by Pope Francis. Salve Regina was founded by the Catholic Sisters of Mercy and is deeply committed to the Jubilee mission.

The quilts are on loan from The Advocacy Project (AP), a Washington-based nonprofit that supports community advocates in the Global South. AP helps disempowered communities tell their stories through quilting and reach an international audience. More than 40 quilts are featured on the AP site.

The 18 quilts on display at Salve Regina protest against discrimination, poverty and pollution in 14 countries. More than 150 individuals, almost all of them women and children, contributed embroidered squares, including: women in the DRC and Mali who have survived war rape; Roma women who were expelled from France; children in Nepal who were rescued from child labor; family members of those who disappeared in Peru and Guatemala; children who live in garbage in India; and people who suffered disability during the wars in northern Uganda and Vietnam. One quilt from Uganda even describes child sacrifice.

“Many of the images are graphic, but these are personal statements and a plea to be heard,” said Kay Scanlan, a sophomore Nuala Pell Fellow at Salve Regina who is one of the exhibition organizers.

Most of the squares were embroidered with help from American Peace Fellows (graduate students) while volunteering abroad through AP’s fellowship program. Several Fellows will attend the March 10 reception. Quilters from Rhode Island will also be featured at the exhibition. Fourteen of the quilts on display were assembled by expert quilters in the U.S., including Barbara Barber from Westerly and Allison Wilbur from Barrington, thus ensuring the highest quality and helping to build a constituency in the U.S. for the artists.

The exhibition will also feature video footage of American quilters at work on quilts from Bangladesh, The Congo and Peru. Several are shown expressing deep compassion for their southern partners.

AP’s collection of quilts have been profiled by the New York Times and Voice of America, and exhibited in the U.S. and Europe, but this will be the first showing in New England for new quilts from Mali and Peru. It will also be the first quilt exhibition organized by students.

The quilts will be grouped into the five Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy – Earth; Immigration; Nonviolence; Racism; and Women. A sixth theme will feature quilts by children. Student fellows in the Nuala Pell Leadership Program at Salve will serve as docents for each theme.

A Global Call for Mercy will be on public view at Ochre Court between March 8 and 16 on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on the weekend from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The reception will be held on March 10, starting at 5:30 p.m., and will feature remarks from the Salve Regina community and The Advocacy Project. RSVP for the reception.