THE BEADED QUILT

As a part of the Please Touch Community Garden (PTG) project, Gk Callahan led the creation of a 8 x 8 foot mural created out of 150,000 colored beads. The Beaded Quilt Mural,  was installed on the San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (LHfB) building in June of 2011.  The mural is a collaborative project hand-built by clients, donors, volunteers, and staff of the LHfB, it helps bridge the gaps that lay between the organization’s many different departments and to server as a beacon for the entrance of the PTG.

The patchwork quilt mural is made of 576 squares, each square consists of 250 beads.  Each square is a small reflection of the person who made it. The beading process fine-tuned the artists’ manual dexterity, improving their hand-eye coordination, and their color and shape recognition. The textural grid of squares highlights the colorfulness and diversity and demonstrates the togetherness of the LHfB organization.

Storytelling and communing in a group setting, while making the mural, echoed the relationship to the tradition behind the communal enterprise of American quilt making. Although the Lighthouse’s art program historically produced craft art such as knitting, the beaded mural illustrates how art made by people with disabilities does not merely have to be crafts, or outsider art. The Beaded Quilt was created as a modern public art installation and as a statement about what one with disabilities can accomplish.

In relation, the AIDS Memorial Quilt was a piece that inspired Callahan's direction in the arts. The vastness of the 3000-foot-long AIDS Memorial Quilt is a beacon of awareness demonstrated though art and traditional practice. Its monumental scale skews the work from its traditional craft contexts. The Beaded Quilt’s vastness is not determined in the scale of the work but in the multitude of beads, its public placement and the dedication from a sole group who overcame social norms to create the work.

In addition, the installment of the Beaded Quilt, helped highlight the garden’s entrance and the alley as a public space itself.  Making the alley more visible to the surrounding community helped with the squatting and drug use that has been rampant for years in that part of the neighborhood. Both “The Beaded Quilt” and the Please Touch Community Garden bring together a relationship between historic genre, social art, and public works that spotlight community togetherness.

The Beaded Quilt one of a number of opportunities for the LHfB to collaborate with the greater SF community thought the building of the The Please Touch Garden.  This includes setting the parameters for CCA’s 2010 Glow in the Dark class, “a one-night exhibition of student works that brought together light sculpture, interactive projects, sound art, and tactile experiences that reflect on the condition of sight loss”.  The exhibition continued an ongoing dialog among CCA, the LHfB community, and GK Callahan.

(Update 2016) In 2016 the LHfB moved locations to the 10th Floor, at 1155 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103. The LHfB was able to take the Beaded Quilt with them, they have install the mural indoors and at a location that keeps the mural safe, and gives it a more sensory approach. See the new photos at the bottom of this post.