Rachel Wallis, MA, is a community taught crafter, artist, and activist. She is interested in transgressing the lines between fine art and craft and engaging in questions of identity, labor, and value when it comes to the creation and appreciation of art. Her work focuses on collaborative community quilting projects addressing issues of race and social justice. Past projects have included Gone But Not Forgotten, a community quilting process creating a memorial quilt for individuals killed by the Chicago Police Department, and Inheritance: Quilting Across Prison Walls, a project using quilts to help rebuild relationships divided by incarceration.
Rachel completed an MA in art and social practice at Moore College of Art and Design in 2016. Her work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun Times, the Journal of Surface Design, and “Art Therapy for Social Justice: Radical Intersections.” She has taught classes or served as artist in residence at the School of the Art Institute, A Studio in the Woods, Lillstreet Art Center, and the Coffee Creek Women’s Correctional Center, The Columbus Cultural Arts Center, and is currently the artist in residence at Project Nia.
I am an activist who uses art in my organizing work, and an artist who engages in issues of racial and social justice. As a community taught textile artist, my work spans the divide between fine art and craft. I believe that traditional textile techniques, particularly quilting, can provide a fertile platform for creating dialog and understanding around complex ideas and issues.
Quilting has a rich history in diverse communities in the US. For generations quilting has created spaces for women to build community, support each other, and organize. I believe that community quilts allow us to tackle overwhelming subjects, like the legacy of violence by the Chicago Police Department, the impact of incarceration on families, or the relationship between the global slave trade and the textile industry. The slow process of stitching occupies our hands and slows our minds. It forces us to travel from the general to the particular. The meditative act of embroidering a name or a place engenders a kind of radical empathy.
Working with anywhere from a dozen to hundreds of people, I have created striking textile pieces that serve as a visual record of the issues at hand, while deepening our relationships with each other and strengthening movements for justice.
Disclaimer: All work represents the views of the INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS & AUTHORS who created them, and are not those of the school or museum of the Art Institute.