Haitian fiber arts show off vibrant culture of a country in need

One of the art quilts, designed and hand-stitched by Haitian women. — Photo Courtesy of PeaceQuilts

An exhibit of art quilts, designed and hand-stitched by women in Haiti, will be on view at the Chilmark branch of Santander bank from now until July 3. The one-of-a-kind quilts are sold in the United States as a means for women in Haiti to earn their way out of poverty, according to a press release. This program has been organized by the nonprofit Island-based organization PeaceQuilts, which helps support and nurture the establishment of independent women’s quilting cooperatives, which are self-managed and self-sustaining.

Expressing Haiti’s rich artistic heritage and culture, the exhibit at the bank will include a selection of striking original art quilts that have recently been brought back from Haiti. “The quilts not only provide the women with a viable means of earning a living, the creation of art nourishes their spirit,” said PeaceQuilts director and Island artist Jeanne Staples.

One hundred women, some master quilters, others still in various stages of training, are organized into cooperatives around Haiti. PeaceQuilts provides an organizational structure for the sewing groups and mentors its members in both sewing and business skills while each woman develops her own artistic expression and each cooperative gains tools for developing a successful small business. The women in Haiti have embraced the program and are active participants in shaping its development. Many of the mature quilters and cooperatives are currently setting up additional PeaceQuilts groups at schools and other locations — including one in Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince’s most notorious slum.

The quilts, as well as pillow covers, handbags, jewelry, and more, are on view on weekdays from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm, Fridays until 4 pm, and Saturdays 8:30 am to 12 noon. Or see them during a reception on Friday, June 20, from 4 to 6 pm. Wine and cheese will be served. For more information, call 508-274-1104 or visit haitipeacequilts.org.