Students got all wrapped up in a project at the beginning of the 2021 school year. The community can now see the results of their hard work displayed on 16 utility boxes throughout the city.
“Stitch Together: A Community Quilt” was a collaboration between the city’s Cultural Affairs department and Virginia Beach City Public Schools. Students from Bayside, Rosemont, Bettie F. Williams elementary schools had the opportunity to design quilt squares that transformed the boxes into works of art.
Former VBCPS Visual Arts Coordinator Chris Buhner, now retired after more than 29 years as an educator, called the experience “an authentic learning opportunity.” The children were asked what they loved about their community, school, and family as inspiration for their designs.
Rosemont Elementary art teacher Molly Woodard said the students learned about quilts made throughout history and in different cultures.
Local artist Jennifer Hand served as artist-in-residence, providing guidance for hundreds of young artists in the three elementary schools. Hand explained that a quilt can be made of anything, as long as it brings you comfort and tells a story about your community.
“That gave students an open opportunity to reflect on what brings them comfort and makes them feel safe,” Woodard said. All grades participated, with the younger students using paper, images, and magazine photos, and the upper grades using fabric pieces. The quilt squares from each class were connected and displayed in the schools. “They really enjoyed the mixed media and collaging aspect of quilt-making,” she said.
During the 2022-23 school year, the unique and colorful quilt square designs were given to students in the Salem High School Visual and Performing Arts Academy, under the direction of visual arts teacher Erin Richburg. More than 20 students participated, mostly juniors.
Students learned the importance of asking specific and relevant questions throughout the process. They stitched squares together digitally and created repeat patterns. “Students were able to fulfill the needs of the client, while keeping the spirit of the project centered on the elementary schools’ student designs,” Richburg said. “This was a completely new process for the class, and we all learned a lot of new skills along the way.”
Sixteen different quilt designs in repeat patterns were then transferred to vinyl and wrapped on the boxes in late summer in the Burton Station, Green Run and Lake Edward communities. The wraps should last approximately three to five years, and do not cover labels, numbering or dates on the boxes.
The city’s Cultural Affairs Deputy Director Beth Hundley praised the project and described quilting as “a form of artistry.” “Each child had a small part to make a beautiful whole,” she said. Hundley said the project enhanced their mission of “engaging residents and visitors through meaningful arts, heritage and cultural experiences to connect and strengthen communities.”
The “quilt-covered” utility boxes are located at: Northampton Boulevard between Burton Station Road and Diamond Springs Road.; Rosemont Road between Dahlia Drive and Lynnhaven Parkway; Lynnhaven Parkway between Ski Lodge Road and Primrose Lane; Baker Road between Hampshire Lane and Newtown Road; Newtown Road between Diamond Springs Road and Deford Road.