Unique quilter working with kids at Brown site

Unique quilter working with kids at Brown site

By Corey Jones

THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL

Marla Jackson stitches her soul into the unique narrative quilts she uses to convey the African-American experience.

Now she is able to pour that same effort into helping local kids develop their minds by working with them to create their own patchwork memories and experiences at a Topeka landmark.

The Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site tapped Jackson as its first artist in residence.David Smith, superintendent of the site, said the quilt artist who communicates the Civil Rights struggle through her work is a “natural fit” to enhance the building’s educational experience.

“It was a great feather in our hat to have her come over and work with us,” Smith said.Jackson, who lives in Lawrence, is well known throughout the quilting community for her innovative quilts that depict narratives, some of which are three dimensional. She is with the parks service for the summer to assist with art projects. Students from Topeka, Lawrence and Kansas City-area Boys and Girls Clubs are visiting historic sites this summer as part of the program.Jackson said the students take rubbings, photographs and notes at each historical site they visit throughout a week. When the students go to the Brown site, 1515 S.E. Monroe, they put down some of the notes onto a canvas.Jackson then sews some of the unique pieces each student collects onto their canvases.

The finished canvases later will be joined with many other pieces from across the country to cover a Saturn V Rocket in Alabama, Jackson said, as a much larger art effort dubbed The Dream Rocket Project.

The National Parks Service pays Jackson a stipend for traveling and material expenses. Also, as part of the Artist in Residence program, she will design a quilt that will stay at the Brown v. Board site.

“The kids love her,” Smith said. “I’m really happy with her. The artwork that is coming back is pretty neat.”Smith said he would like to line up more local artists when Jackson’s residency is up.Jackson, who has been featured in about 40 exhibitions, said she has been blessed with a gift she loves to share. She said creating each piece of art is a journey that morphs into reality and is the greatest joy she feels in her life except for her husband and three kids.

“I feel so relieved and so at peace,” she said. “I actually become the characters.”Jackson enjoys giving back to the community through her art and teaching, which helped lead her to the residency program.Jackson’s artistic directive was motivated by her family’s stories. Growing up in Michigan, she spent much time with her paternal grandparents and her once-enslaved great grandmother. Stories they told have inspired her to reach out, educate and empower kids through her unique brand of art that captures experiences and emotions from the past.

“I’m a story teller,” she said.

Read more online at http://cjonline.com/news/2012-06-22/unique-quilter-working-kids-brown-site