Quilting Connects Class and Community

by Elizabeth Davis

Many children in Kentucky will be resting easier thanks to the combined efforts of Transylvanians and AmeriCorps.

Professor Kurt Gohde sews one of many quilt squares that will be combined into quilts for needy children in Lexington.

Transy’s Community Engagement Through the Arts (CETA) class, an interdisciplinary program taught by Drs. Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova, sponsored a quilting bee on Saturday, Feb. 13. The quilts are being created to be displayed as a one-day art installation at the 760 N. Limestone St. furniture store and will later be donated to AmeriCorps’ Build-A-Bed program.

The usage of the quilts at 760 N. Limestone St. is connected to one of the CETA class’s many focuses: breaking down the stereotypes of the urban community surrounding Transy.

“DPS actively discourages students and faculty to go to the (surrounding urban community),” Todorova stated.

She related that the Department of Public Safety urged her and her husband not to take an apartment on Fifth Street, and that Dr. Gohde and his wife couldn’t even get pizza delivered to their Fourth Street apartment.

“These are people just like ourselves,” she explained. “We didn’t want the class merely to make forays into the community.”

In addition to crafting the quilts, students typically meet in the community on Wednesday nights to walk through the area.

According to the Bluegrass Community Action Partnership, Build-A-Bed plans to construct 500 beds for needy Kentucky children this year. The program, which is in its second year, will be completed in the form of a 24-hour “build blitz” in Central Kentucky. Build-A-Bed is recruiting over 2,000 community members in addition to AmeriCorps volunteers to complete the project. It is led by AmeriCorps volunteer Angela Baldridge, a Transylvania graduate.

In addition to the beds, the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services reports that volunteers will deliver “bedtime bags” to children in need. These bags include pajamas, twin-size sheets, teddy bears, books, nightlights and pillows. The quilts completed by Transy’s participants will be added to these bags and will be distributed throughout the state.

The quilting bees are structured so that quilters of all skill levels can participate.

Sophomore Austyn Gaffney elaborated, “At the bees we have participants embellish squares of fabric that will eventually be integrated into the completed quilt. Each person, from beginner to expert, can have a hand in sewing something that will provide happiness and warmth for a child.”

However, dedication to the craft is necessary, no matter how skilled the participant.

Senior Amanda Velez explained, “These quilts take a great deal of time – having to cut the squares, sew (or) baste the squares into strips, embellish them and then sew them together again as complete quilt tops. The time and effort we (as a class) have put into this project, along with the good that will ultimately come from it, are all things that will not soon be forgotten.”

So how did the quilters “piece together” the idea to get involved in this project?

Velez stated, “I joined the CETA class because I wanted to become more involved with community activism. I have been a member of the Kentucky Youth Advisory Council for about five years now, a group dedicated to working with teenagers and young adults – teaching them advocacy skills, how to engage our government, and basically learning ways to stay informed about what is going on in the world and how it may affect us.”

Laina Smith, Transy’s resident nurse and an avid knitter, plans to contribute her work in addition to the quilts completed during the bees.

“I’m part of the Wednesday night ‘In the Loop’ group in the Beck Center,” Smith said. “We’ve completed about 66 blocks so far.”

Those involved hope to produce more than quilts through their efforts.

“The quilting bees are helping us make more connections, which is what the class is about,” Todorova said.

Gaffney agreed and said, “I think meeting new people and forming new relationships is the untold centerfold of what we’re trying to achieve. We intend to both strengthen the internal Transy community and integrate it with the diverse community of Lexington, and one path is through quilts.”

The reception for the art installation at the 760 N. Limestone St. store will be held on Friday, April 2, from 5 to 8 p.m.


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