In August, my friend Karen and I checked out an installation of The Monument Quilt in downtown Des Moines. It’s a powerful project to experience. The Monument Quilt (this link has many more photos from across the country) is a crowd-sourced collection of thousands of stories from survivors of rape and abuse, with the purpose of creating a culture where survivors are publicly supported, rather than publicly shamed.
I studied art and art history in college and graduate school, and I’ve always appreciated that art has the potential to deliver difficult messages and instill understanding and compassion across cultures.
The full installation originally took place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and since then, parts of the quilt have been displayed all over the country. This image of the mall in Washington is wonderful (one of support materials distributed when the quilt is displayed):
The portions displayed in Des Moines included the same message:
Some of the stories are shared behind pieces of fabric (a flap that can be lifted); allowing the viewer to choose whether or not they want to read the survivor’s words… These stories have the potential to be emotionally draining, difficult to “hear”. There are volunteer “supporters” on hand for viewers to talk to about what they are feeling as they view the installation.
The myriad of fabrics, mediums, colors, images and words create beautiful and strong messages. If you have the opportunity to visit this project in person, I highly recommend it.
The Des Moines installation as photographed from above (photo by Eric D. Sammon):