Community-centered quilt to become permanent addition to Noyes Cultural Arts Center


Mika Ellison/The Daily Northwestern

Maggie Weiss, artist-in-residence at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, created a quilt with Evanston youth to reflect the center’s focus on community.

Shannon Tyler, Reporter

Evanston youth visiting the Noyes Cultural Arts Center can see themselves portrayed in fabric images they helped create.

Becoming one of the few permanent pieces at the center, the hand-crafted quilt “Making Noyes,” is the work of Artist-In-Residence Maggie Weiss and a group of Evanston youth. Weiss said including the young people gave the piece the necessary playfulness.

“If I had made all those faces, it wouldn’t have the same fun energy. It would be boring,” Weiss said. “When it’s a whole room of kids, all their energy gets put into the pieces, and it’s just the best.” 

The quilt showcases cloth self-portraits created by attendees at the center’s youth art camps. Depictions of the Noyes Center and surrounding houses make up the quilt’s background. Words like “music” and “painting” also decorate the quilt, giving viewers an idea of the activities available for kids at the center. 

“Making Noyes” marks a thematic shift in Weiss’s works. Based in Evanston, Weiss usually creates fabric pieces that reflect the beauty of nature or address social issues. However, Weiss said she wanted this piece to reflect Noyes Center’s community-focused work. 

Alex Theis, the center’s coordinator, emphasized Weiss’s inclusive mindset in creating the piece.

“A lot of other pieces are individual to the artist themselves and are very meaningful, deep and amazing,” Theis said. “But she wanted to just create something that was for everybody (at) the Noyes building.”

The center’s artists-in-residence rent out studio space and are required to give back to the community with dedicated service. Many, like Weiss, contribute by providing opportunities for the community to get involved in the arts.

Weiss began her residency about 15 years ago. Over the course of her artistic career, she has engaged the community in artistic pursuits including volunteer sewing and art workshops with local youth. 

According to Theis, Weiss proposed the idea to involve the community in the quilt’s creation. “Making Noyes” went through the internal approval process by the Noyes Tenants Association, which is made up of other artists-in-residence.

Angela Allyn, the center’s community arts coordinator, said the association takes careful consideration in selecting permanent pieces. 

“Most of the time, we have a revolving exhibition cycle, but every once in a while, significant tenants offer to do a piece that will live here,” Angela said. “It was very important to the Tenants Association to highlight the vibrancy and diversity of the medium and the people coming together and passing through this building.” 

The center held an event celebrating the debut of Weiss’s piece and two others on March 25. Weiss’s “Making Noyes” was accompanied by an exhibition from the Actors Gymnasium and another Evanston-centered piece, which uses material from homes in the area to analyze the diaspora of folkloric traditions in the Caribbean, by fellow Artist-in-Residence Yanira Collado.

Weiss said her favorite part of “Making Noyes” was not the piece itself, but the process of making it.

“It gives kids a voice, and it gives their expression public display,” she said. 

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Twitter: @shannonmtyler

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