Stitching Time: The Social Justice Collaboration Quilts Project 

Sep 01, 2021 - Dec 30, 2021
Machaver Gallery

In 1997, inmates serving life sentences at Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola State Prison after the former plantation on which it is located, created a hospice program to support those who were ill, elderly, and dying among them. To raise money for the program, the Angola hospice volunteers, themselves sentenced to life imprisonment, made and sold quilts. Beginning in 2012, one of the hospice quilters, Kenya, began a collaboration with Maureen Kelleher, who had come to know him through her work as a social justice activist. In addition to being an artist and a dedicated quilter, Kelleher is a private investigator who works to uncover original evidence in preparation for new trials for men who have been wrongly convicted. Her investigative work has led to the exoneration and release of two men from Louisiana death row, as well as the right to a new trial or overturned conviction for other prisoners.   

 The Social Justice Collaboration Quilts Project began with the friendship of Maureen Kelleher and Kenya and has spread beyond Angola Prison’s volunteer hospice program. Artists involved in the project include Maureen, her sister Teresa Kelleher, and incarcerated men, among them Etienne, Kenya, Sharif, Zulu, Mutulu Shakur, and Ramsey Orta. The Project’s goals include educating the public about the Angola Prison hospice program, supporting artists who work behind prison walls, and giving voice to the political consciousness of imprisoned and free quilters. Their quilts probe issues of American history, injustice, the African American experience, and Black intellectual traditions. This exhibition presents a selection of quilts from the Project, which are paired with recordings of the artists reflecting on their quilting practice and life as incarcerated individuals. 

Organized by Maureen Kelleher, Donna Gustafson, and Hannah Shaw   

Kenya and Maureen Kelleher

Red, White & Baldwin, 2015

Fabric, thread and acrylic paint

90 x 90 in. (228.6 x 228.6 cm)

Courtesy of the artists

Photo courtesy of Gallery Aferro