Not long after activist group FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture tricked the internet into believing that Victoria's Secret was debuting a "Pink Loves Consent" line of panties, the Rothko Chapel’s future director of programs and community engagement, Ashley Clemmer, toured their Baltimore studio. There, she got an early look at The Monument Quilt, a collection of stories from survivors of sexual violence and abuse, stitched together on big, red panels.
“I just thought it was so energizing and exciting the way that they were incorporating the creative process in art into making change,” says Clemmer.
Now, Clemmer and the Rothko Chapel are bringing The Monument Quilt, and FORCE studio director Shanti Flagg, to Houston for their International Women's Day Observation. This year’s IWD theme is #PressforProgress, which Clemmer says the chapel is approaching within the broad context of women’s rights and, specifically, the Me Too movement.
“I think that with the Me Too movement there are just more and more stories coming out of the shadows,” says Clemmer. “To keep that momentum, we saw this as an opportunity for the chapel to really further develop that awareness by shining a light on one particular organization, FORCE, which is really addressing this topic of rape and abuse and upsetting the rape culture in a creative and innovative way.”
Flagg will bring with her ten of the more than 1,000 squares that have been collected and displayed across the United States, with each 3-by-3-foot square selected with keywords such as spirituality, empowerment and action in mind. Nine of the squares will blanket the chapel’s grounds, while one will be placed inside the chapel for the evening’s guided meditation.
Following the meditation, facilitated by Dawn Mountain’s Claire Villarreal, is an hour-long reception that will offer participants a chance to contribute to the quilt themselves, an aspect of the program Clemmer finds equally important.
“FORCE brings with them a movement, it’s a social action that people can get involved in, in a very specific way,” she says.
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In addition, Clemmer says the chapel has reached out to local organizations like Daya Houston, The Women’s Home and the Houston Area Women’s Center, and invited them to be part of the conversation. She hopes they will be able to provide suggestions to locals who feel called to action.
“One of the goals I think for any of these types of programs [is] just to be reminded that we’re part of a bigger community, that while our stories are unique to us, there’s power in being able to share stories and to hear things reflected back to us,” says Clemmer.
“It’s really easy to get really bogged down and, in thinking about this press for progress, to think of what change is happening. Is it getting better? So I think, if anything, by sharing some of these stories by seeing the quilt, it will just renew some hope in what is happening [and] the power we have when we join together.”
The Monument Quilt will be displayed from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., followed by a Twilight Meditation at 6 p.m. on March 8 at Rothko Chapel, 3900 Yupon. For more information, call 713-524-9839 or visit rothkochapel.org. Pay what you can; suggested contribution $15.