It was surprising to watch students rein in their excitement during the summer program, listen and follow instructions, work together, and focus to complete a work of art.
Students, ages 5-14, from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville East St. Louis Center’s (ESLC) Project Success program participated in The Children’s Quilting Project: Healing through Art, made possible through a grant from the SIUE Meridian Society.
Project Success is a comprehensive after-school tutorial enrichment childcare program, which services children ages 5-14. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services funds the program. It is designed to serve children who are in protective custody and are referred by the Department of Children and Family Services caseworkers. The program provides services to children living within the St. Clair County and Madison County areas.
The creative activity was a collaboration between SIUE, Project Success and the Greater East St. Louis Community Fund (GESLCF).
Celebrated artist and SIUE alumna Edna Patterson Petty, of East St. Louis, led the summer art classes at the ESLC campus. Assisting Petty were author Linda Jones, former GESLCF executive director, who read quilting books by national painter and mixed media sculptor Faith Ringgold.
“I was pleasantly surprised at how well the students took to the art project. They were not bustling around. They were excited, but concentrated on their task at hand,” said Precious Grimes, Project Success director and licensed clinical therapist.
This year was the fourth quilting project for Project Success students, according to Pamela Coaxum, GESLCF executive director. Previous quilting classes have been funded through the GESLCF, St. Louis Arts and Education Council and other private donations.
“The purpose of the project was to introduce a little bit about measuring and understanding of how quilts are made,” remarked Coaxum, a longtime quilter. “Students traced hearts from paper templates. They were given three layers that make up a quilt and traced a heart onto the facing. Then they cut it out and stuck it onto a background square.”
“Edna will take all the squares and sew them into a quilt,” Coaxum said. . “The quilt is expected to be completed by the end of July and later displayed somewhere on the East St. Louis campus.”
“What’s great is that the students get to see their finished project. A lot of these children don’t get to see that, because they are so transient,” said Grimes. “The students’ success in completing the quilt speaks to their ability to be resilient in life, which was the theme of the project.”
“The art project allowed them to be mentally stimulated and focused on a task, which is very important in education,” noted Grimes. “It was therapeutic and educational, and provided an opportunity for socialization.”