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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Experiencing Physical Challenges First-hand

We all have aches and pains from time to time, but most of us don't experience having true physical challenges. In 2010, all three of our volunteer staff experienced some degree of additional physical challenges that made doing the simplest of things difficult. We are all seniors, so it is possible that some of this comes with age, but it is never easy to accept that a genuine physical challenge can strike anyone at any time. Winter Migration quilt by Barbara Williamson.
Part of the changes we have made in the kinds of challenges we will have each year and what other activities we will get involved with stems from our being unable to do the same level of work that was required previously. I don't think most people fully grasp what is involved in holding challenges. Curating the shows includes getting good live venues that are appropriate for our artists, and where our artists have an opportunity to possibly sell their work if they so choose; and it also includes tons of correspondence with the artists, the live venues, and other supporting people. There is also the physical side of getting in all the packages containing the quilts and then making sure they are stored adequately; shipping them to the different venues; getting them hung at local venues; being there to greet the viewers and talk about all of the quilts; and making sure they get home safe and sound once again (which includes our packaging the quilts up to go home, and they always need new packaging).

Our goal is to not just provide opportunities for the physically challenged and emerging artists, but to educate the public on an ongoing basis about the fact that just because someone is physically challenged, life as we know it does not come to an end. Most of the people who visit our exhibits are amazed that people who are physically challenged can do consistently high quality work.

There is a large degree of satisfaction that comes with watching the progress of the individual artists; watching them grow in their art, in their confidence level, and in their ability to win awards and sell their work - there is no dollar amount that could meet up with that satisfaction.

It will be interesting for us to see how the new things we are changing to will work out. We did have one challenge this last year in the new format - it was a scarf challenge, and the participants were children and adults.  The scarves could be newly made or upcycled and embellished to meet our theme, "Enduring Earth."  All the scarves were for sale at the one venue in Wilsonville, N.C. at the Community College there.  The proceeds benefited The Nature Conservancy. We have no special favorite organizations to benefit. We will just pick one organization each year as it comes into our consciousness, or one good cause.

A friend and I were talking recently about the quilt community in general. I noted that the quilt community. is amazing in its ability to remain flexible and to keep re-inventing itself as needed to create its own viable economy even in these challenging times.  It is good to be a part of the community and to be able to contribute to others as we do.