Earth Quilts History

Creating a garden, a symbol of hope and celebration designed from the elements of the earth and created within the earth…


In the years of 1979 and 1980…

…I installed two site specific earth works in NYC. One in Battery Park titled “Passage” (image at left) and another at the Manhattan Psychiatric Center, titled “I’ve Moved Mountains Before” (image below). At the site of Castle Clinton at Battery Park it was my desire to honor the history of the site and the millions of people who sought entry from other lands to gain personal freedom. Castle Clinton served as an immigrant processing depot from 1855 to 1890. Ellis Island ultimately assumed this function in 1892. On the grounds of the Manhattan Psychiatric Center I wanted to involve patients in the process of creating art as a means of personal healing. Thus began my commitment to public art and the exploration between personal creativity and social responsibility.

I’ve Moved Mountains Before

In the spring of 1980 I traveled to the mountains of North Carolina for a summer adventure. An adventure it was. I decided to stay. I worked side by side with my neighbors in the fields, barns and community gatherings. Quilts and the stories that they held were part of everyday life. They made bold statements about history, personal freedom and connections made between people and their creative ingenuity.

In 1986 in response to the proposal for a high level nuclear waste repository slated for my community and the surrounding 112 thousand acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the seeds for the first Earth Quilt were planted on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Asheville. I wanted to symbolically cover the land with a quilt that would foster the nurturing side of humankind. It was my desire to incorporate music and dance into the celebration, and so it was.

Star Of Freedom

The idea grew and thousands of people of all ages responded and have participated. The project has been nationally and internationally recognized. More than sixty Earth Quilt gardens blanket the grounds of schools, hospitals, group homes and public sites throughout the South East and beyond. Each garden symbolically represents the community in which it is placed (“Star Of Freedom” – image at left). At one school the garden is a memorial celebrating the life of a beloved principal and at another the coming together of two schools divided by town and county, race and economics. During the taping of a video a woman living at a shelter for homeless families said this about her participation in the Earth Quilt project. ”I feel this is something that me and my kids can work on together and when we leave here part of us is still here saying thank you” A young resident at a group home said. “What we want is hope and for the earth to be a better place than it is now. This garden will last….and I can say I helped with it”.