Crying the Blues Quilt


Old Age Pensioners' Organisation
British Columbia, Canada

The idea for this quilt came from Clara Halber, our Greater Victoria Seniors president. It would be a way for every branch of the Old Age Pensioners' Organisation in British Columbia to express their concerns about government cuts to services. To give it focus, quilter Alison Acker suggested its name, the "Crying the Blues" quilt. And, of course, the main colour would be blue.

Early in 2003, a call went out to every branch asking for a quilt piece that represented their most urgent concerns, with no specifics except for size and colour - some shade related to blue, which would be the background. We waited, not sure there were quilters still around or if they would want to lend their craft to a protest. Were we surprised when 32 pieces arrived! Even more surprising was the variety of their concerns and the anger apparent in so many contributions.

Some of the pieces are symbolic, like the Lumby contribution entitled "Cutting Corners", or others showing broken promises or soaring drug costs. But most are folk art, like the contribution from Cumberland, which depicts a woman aged 104 denied home care. Concern over the closure of care facilities, court houses, hospitals and lumber mills, soaring gas prices, poor roads and ferry service - they are all expressed with both passion and artistry. Alison put the pieces together very simply because this is a quilt with a message.

We believe we have tapped into a deep, common concern, using a traditional form of expression. The people who have contributed might not feel comfortable protesting in the streets but they have something to say and the craft to make an artistic statement. What is more, the quilt has travelled round the province, on exhibition as each branch determined, so that its message reaches an even wider audience. It has also been taken to the B.C. Legislature.