July 29, 2014


On August 21, 2014, residents of New York City will witness stories from survivors of sexual violence stitched together on 200 bright, red quilt squares. The Monument Quilt will be on display from 1 to 5pm in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park at the Queens Museum.  Larger than two basketball courts put together, the quilt is traveling the country this summer as part of an ongoing project to create public healing space for survivors of rape and abuse. During a 12-city tour, The Monument Quilt will be displayed at public parks, town squares, college campuses and high school football fields from White River, SD to Queens, NY.

“By stitching our stories together, we are creating and demanding public space to heal,” says Hannah Brancato, co-director of Force, the group behind the traveling display. “The Monument Quilt is a platform to not only tell our stories, but work together to forever change how our country responds to rape. We are creating a new culture where survivors are publicly supported, rather than publicly shamed.”

At the display, attendees will witness survivors’ stories, demonstrate public support, and transform their local response to rape. Participants will be able to write their own reflections, hear speeches and join in community. Survivors and allies who wish to add a square to the in-progress quilt can make one following these instructions. Squares brought on August 21 will be added to the display.

The Monument Quilt provides clear and accessible steps to support survivors of rape and abuse when, often, people don’t know where to begin. Through public recognition, the quilt reconnects survivors to their community.

Sexual violence in the United States is nothing short of an epidemic.  In the US, 1 in 3 women, 1 in 3 trans* people and 1 in 6 men will be raped or abused in their lifetime.  Women are twice as likely to experience rape as breast cancer.

Using art as a tool to connect communities is not new to the Queens Museum.  As an institution that has reinvented the role of what a museum can be in the city of New York, it is only fitting that Queens Museum would be the institution to host a community-based art and activist project such as The Monument Quilt.

Force also uses art and activism as tools for social change.  As Hannah Brancato puts it, “Art is transformative and can be part of creating social justice. Quilt-making has historically served as a means for telling stories and organizing communities around common political goals, because the process and product creates a space for sharing stories. Sexual violence is a collective trauma that affects us all, and so it can only end when communities come together to create the alternative to rape culture – a culture of support for survivors.”

The museum is bringing the Monument Quilt to Corona Park after hosting a series of workshops for latina women from the neighborhood, organized by Immigrant Movement International (IMI) and Violence Intervention Program, Inc. (VIP Mujeres).

“The Queens Museum is happy to host a display of the Monument Quilt, including many panels created in a workshop at Immigrant Movement International our offsite immigrant community education center in our largely Latino neighborhood of Corona,” says Prerana Reddy of the Queens Museum. “As part of an ongoing women’s wellness and initiative  situated there that includes health, nutrition, and exercise, we were happy to collaborate with artist/activist group Force to add an arts project that allows local women to share stories of sexual and domestic abuse with each other. Art-making and storytelling are powerful tools not only to heal individual trauma but to challenge a public culture that tolerates rape and relegates it to the private sphere.”

Rocio, a workshop participant, says, “Each time I write on my quilt, I feel freedom, peace and tranquility. I pour my love and support for myself and for others. I know I am not alone!”

Lorena Kourousias of Violence Intervention Program, Inc (VIP Mujeres) has been organizing workshops in advance on the August display. She says,“We are hosting a workshop to bring sexual abuse into the conversation. We are also including the community to create social responsibility. The Monument Quilt is an opportunity to connect people from different backgrounds. Working in collaboration with Violence Intervention Program, INC., Immigration Movement International at Queens is extending the project to survivors of Domestic Violence in Queens, Manhattan and The Bronx. In support, we included a community Organization at Mexico City, La Casa Mandarina. We want to create a system honoring survivors’ strengths and courage.  We believe that together we can change the social norms that perpetuate, allowed and normalize abuse, control and power.”

Queens County is the most ethnically diverse county in the United States.  138 languages are spoken in the borough.  The organizations hosting the August quilt display work year-round to remove barriers and increase access for immigrant communities.

“It has become clear that without a culturally competent infrastructure, anti-sexual assault and intimate partner violence programs cannot effectively promote the inclusion and meaningful participation of Latino communities,” said Arte Sana in a statement on barriers for latina/o survivors.

VIP Mujeres takes a unique approach to breaking cycles of domestic violence through the four core values of collaboration, women’s development, empowerment, and self-determination. Rather than merely providing services, VIP Mujeres encourages growth through individualized plans and constant collaboration of staff and recipients. Originally founded to support Latinas and still primarily focusing on that community, VIP Mujeres has extended its span over time to encompass aid to over 10,000 New Yorkers of all cultural backgrounds. The attention of services is focused on marginalized individuals, especially immigrants and those struggling to navigate the social services network due to cultural boundaries.

Immigrant Movement International (IMI) is a community space in the migrant-heavy neighborhood of Corona, Queens. In 2011, artist Tania Bruguera founded IMI in partnership with the Queens Museum. The goal of IMI is to offer educational programming, legal, and health services at no cost to recipients, serving the diverse needs of Corona residents. IMI hopes to shift leadership and ownership to individuals who are empowered by its programming, facilitating the building of sustainable power and community.

La Casa Mandarina,an itinerant and independent agency based in Mexico City, is devoted to building a culture of peace by empowering people and communities through the program “Comunidades libres: entra y vive” (Free Communities: come in and live). The program is holistic, sustainable and replicable; it is generated from within the community, and aims at promoting change in those social norms and beliefs perpetuating oppression and violence. It thereby helps to generate real choices for people to live the lives they value the most for themselves, which in turn also contributes to promote a positive change at the societal level.

The New York City display is part of a twelve-city tour set to begin this August. The Monument Quilt will visit Arden, NC; Birmingham, AL; Baton Rouge, LA; Quapaw, OK; Des Moines, IA; White River, SD; Fox Valley, WI; Chicago, IL; Pittsburgh, PA; Queens, NY; Durham, NC; Baltimore, MD; and Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.

The 100 x 100 foot quilt that will be witnessed this summer is only the beginning. Over the next two years, more and more stories will be added to The Monument Quilt. In a final display, The Monument Quilt will blanket over one mile of the National Mall with thousands of quilt squares to spell “NOT ALONE.”

For those interested in shaping this nation-wide community art project, there are many different ways to get involved. Survivors and allies can make their own quilt square. People across the country are invited to host quilt-making workshops in their school, community center, place of worship, or town.  You can also volunteer time or donate money to help make this vision a reality. All the different ways to engage, resources for survivors, information about upcoming events, and more can be found at themonumentquilt.org.  If you are interested in volunteering at a quilt display, email upsettingrapeculture@gmail.com.