Sunday, January 17, 2010

Happy Anniversary J2WH!

Believe it or not, today is the one year anniversary of the completion of the Journey to the White House quilt. It doesn't seem possible that it has already been a year. What seems even more impossible to me is all the extraordinary events that have occurred in the year since. A few days ago Dr. Gaither and I were talking while she was in Connecticut for the opening of the Gee's Bend play and debut of her works in Hartford mulling over this very thought.

One year ago today at this very moment (2:04 p.m.), J2WH was being finished, the last beads being sewn on, pieces being secured, and final stitches put in place. We were preparing for a 6 week exhibition of the work and sharing the details of the public quilting sessions on this blog. The final number of people who worked on the quilt whether it was at the public quilting sessions, private sessions at Dr. Gaither's home and work space, and a few other locations and events came in somewhere between 650 and 700. The quilt was featured in several local media outlets and picked up and carried in newspapers throughout the country. Everyone was extremely proud, and rightfully so, of the work that went into J2WH. As I mentioned in earlier posts, there are memories I have of the quilting events that will never leave my mind. Beyond memories, are the emotions that went through the rooms of the quilting sessions. Watching the sheer number of people who came (in droves) to participate, to watch, to listen, and to learn was beyond our wildest expectations. This is something I am learning to expect when it comes to working with Dr. Gaither. Expect the unexpected and don't ever assume anything.

In the year since J2WH debuted:
  • The J2WH exhibition at the Banneker-Douglass Museum was extended from 6 weeks to 9 months
  • There is a national tour of Dr. Gaither's work in progress
  • The quilt picked up a "friend" while at the museum in the form of a student generated portrait of President Obama
  • This blog has been read by over 2,800 people from 20+ countries around the world with nearly 50% of the visitation in the United States coming from people outside of Maryland
  • The press coverage of Dr. Gaither and her work has increased exponentially
  • Interest in bringing her work to venues throughout the US and a few countries in other parts of the globe is coming in fast and furious
  • The number of workshops and requests for Dr. Gaither to teach others how to do the type of quilting she does are pouring in with each request getting more involved and encompassing greater numbers of people
  • The number of people who have seen J2WH numbers around 10,000
  • J2WH is no longer the newest quilt in the My American Series

Quite a list of changes and those are just the few I have in the forefront of my mind. I am sure if I spent some greater time thinking about the quilt, I could come up with several others. I have proposed doing a "One Year Later" retrospective with Dr. Gaither on camera to add to the blog. I have some footage of Dr. Gaither I shot over the past year with J2WH that I have not shared here which I will add, including reading comments left in the quilt journal and reactions to the public outpouring of support and interest in this quilt. Hopefully we will be able to take some time in the coming weeks and create the retrospective which will be posted here.

Please share with us your memories of J2WH whether it be of your time working on the quilt, the first time you saw it, your favorite part of the quilt, etc. Documenting and sharing stories is what these quilts are all about and we want to continue that tradition here. Leave us a comment on this posting or send us an email at

In the time it has taken me to type this post, the 1 year anniversary of J2WH being hung for exhibition on the walls of the Banneker-Douglass Museum has occurred.

Happy Anniversary J2WH, Dr. Gaither, and the whole J2WH community!

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