Homewood artist works with Penn Hills kids to create 'autobiographical quilt'

Patrick Varine
| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:31 p.m.

During her residency this summer at the Lincoln Park Community Center, Homewood artist Tina Williams Brewer watched confidence grow day by day in the group of children she taught.

Brewer, a 1972 graduate of the Columbus College of Art and Design, came to the center by way of the Lincoln Park Family Support Center and Gateway to the Arts, a Pittsburgh-based arts organization which organizes public performances, provides professional development for educators and artists-in-residence, and helps prepare artists to work in school and community settings.

Brewer spent five weeks at the Lincoln Park Community Center (LPCC) where she worked with about 45 children between the ages of 10 and 13.

“(The center) is not far from me, so it was nice to be able to work in the community,” Brewer said.

With recent experience working in the Pittsburgh Public Schools — Gateway to the Arts also has worked closely in recent years with the city schools' Early Childhood Education Program — Brewer said it was nice to be working with a smaller group of kids.

“I could see the development of their confidence from the beginning to the end,” she said. “Some of the kids who weren't smiling when the program began had great big grins at the end.”

Brewer, who works mainly in fiber art, had children work on projects to teach them basic techniques for using needles and thread. Each of the five techniques they learned were used in creating two fabric blocks, one of which was used to create a pillow, with the other becoming part of an “autobiographical quilt” that was unveiled Sept. 20 at the center.

The concept for the quilt was based on author Mem Fox's children's book, “Whoever You Are,” which emphasizes the similarities between children all over the world regardless of their race, color or creed.

“I had them make a paper collage representing what they felt was important for the world to hear,” Brewer said. “They came up with some really incredible concepts.”

Brewer said several children focused on environmental issues. Each participant created a 12-inch-by-12-inch block that became part of the quilt, which is more of an art quilt than a utilitarian one for keeping warm.

“It actually takes some time to look at the quilt because there's so much there, and there's a different story in each block,” Brewer said.

In addition to its unveiling at the center, the quilt also served as one of 20 projects on display at the 2012 Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children and Family Support Conference, held Sept. 21 and 22 at the David Lawrence Convention Center.

Carol Wolfe, program manager for Gateway to the Arts, has worked with Brewer for a number of years, and Wolfe helped secure grant funding for Brewer's residency at the LPCC.

“Tina's work is known nationally and been exhibited around the country,” Wolfe said. “It was a chance for kids to work with a professional artist and have a quality, art-centered experience.”

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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