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2016 Ashland Gallery

Artists Envision a New Approach to Preventing Gun Violence Artistic expression is a powerful tool. Gazing at a work of art can bring feelings of wonder, passion, warmth, pain, anguish, and perhaps action. Ashland artist Cathy DeForest wants to harness that creative power to create change around a very polarizing issue: preventing gun violence. She believes it’s possible to change the dialogue about gun safety in this country by engaging artists and community members to share their visions of a country without gun violence. “Something needs to be done,” she says. “We want to move from fear to connection.” DeForest’s national grassroots organization is called The Vision Quilt. (www.visionquilt.org). The AIDS quilt is her inspiration for the project. It’s still making an impact more than 30 years later and DeForest imagines the By Jackie Markin Vision Quilt one day having a similar impact. Her goal is for the Vision Quilt to be displayed across the country where it will be shared with millions. The term “quilt” is used in a broad sense of the word. Each 18” x 24” panel is an individual work of art. The panels also can be showcased in other ways. “It’s a portable message,” says DeForest. “We made them small enough that they can be worn, carried or strung together in a large format art piece or quilt.” Artists from four to 94 have participated so far in a wide range of media. Panels can be painted, sewn, or drawn with markers. One contributor knitted her entire panel. Others are creating panels digitally and then printing them on canvas. Founding member Nancy Bardos created a panel memorializing the victims of the Charleston mass shooting using only her iPad. There are a few requirements: the panels must be 18” x 24,” they should be on durable fabric that will travel well, and they should embrace the theme “It is possible.” The group requests that contributors promote non-violence and avoid hate speech. The goal is to “think about positive solutions.” DeForest assembled a core team of volunteers from the Rogue Valley to grow the Vision Quilt project. Among them are accomplished artists who are now focusing their skills on creating a new conversation about gun safety. “The members are teachers, business owners, parents, artists, social workers, journalists, retirees and gun owners. They bring years of experience in working with public schools, universities, nonprofits and social justice causes.” Among the founding members working with DeForest are: Nancy Bardos, Kiersta Gostnell, Mary Lou LoPreste, Barbara Goldfarb- Seles and Jackie Markin (this article’s author). As the Vision Quilt grows, more and more volunteers are joining the effort. Cathy DeForest says Vision Quilt wants to engage a wide range of ages, backgrounds and political views. “We want gun owners to participate. In fact, some of our first panels came from gun owners.” Photos by Jackie Markin and Cathy DeForest “The Vision Quilt expects to expand even more over the next few years...” Above: Panel by Judy Howard. Right: Attendees signing at MLK event in the Old Armory. 44 Ashland Gallery Guide


2016 Ashland Gallery
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