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Peace Museum features quilt exhibit on “The Golden Rule”

World faiths reflected in Minnesota artist’s work

It was a vivid dream that inspired Janet McTavish to create the colorful — and educational — quilts now on display at the Dayton International Peace Museum.

The exhibit, “Peace Labyrinth: Quilting the Golden Rule” can be seen through Sept. 14. It’s paired with a group of regional quilts titled “Individual Expressions of the Golden Rule.”

“We have so many problems in the world, and they are overwhelming,” said McTavish, who came to town at the end of June to introduce her labor of love. “What I’ve learned is the Golden Rule is a good place to start. If everybody tried to live by that rule, we wouldn’t have problems.”

In her Artist’s Statement, McTavish states that she had been concerned for some time about the increasing fear that she saw among many Americans after the events of 9/11.

“I began to see people classifying others on the basis of race, religion, looks and clothing to the point where people were being discriminated against, profiled, banned from public transportation and even arrested because of the fear of some and the silence of others,” she said.

An Oberlin graduate who lives in Duluth, Minn., McTavish worked as a market researcher before she retired and began devoting her time and energy to oil painting. She became intrigued by pictorial quilts because they had the potential to combine her love of painting and quilting. The idea of creating a Peace Labyrinth came to her in a dream in 2009.

“In the dream, I walked a labyrinth and was walking by cubicles representing the major faiths and religions in the world, learning about them as I went,” she explained.

In her dream, she carried a rock that represented all the negativity and uneasiness people feel when confronted with new ideas, different perspectives and unfamiliar cultures. When she reached the center of the labyrinth, McTavish saw a waterfall where she was encouraged to leave her rock — and with it her own discomfort. Eventually she saw a garden where she was urged to share the peace and love she had found on the path with everyone she met.

That’s precisely what she’s been doing ever since.

Starting the project

“When I woke up, I knew I had to make that labyrinth,” McTavish said. She was determined to turn her dream into a two-dimensional art quilt.

In her introductory quilt titled “Labyrinth of Love,” a visitor’s fingers can do the walking by following a wall-mounted labyrinth. The rocky part of the path is covered with words such as “Injustice”, “Pain” and Rigidity.” When it turns into a flower path, the words transform into positive values such as “Respect,” “Understanding”, “Compassion” and “Willingness to Listen.”

When that quilt was completed, McTavish still wasn’t satisfied. She wanted to tackle a 3-D quilted labyrinth that others could actually walk through.

“I knew I was supposed to make it, but I was going through chemo for breast cancer at the time, and I didn’t know if I could ever finish it,” she explained. “But if you don’t start, you don’t finish.”

By the time the project was complete eight years later, more than 62 others had contributed. They’d given money for the materials and contributed their sewing skills for quilting, piecing blocks, adding bindings and sleeves.

Two quilt artists from Duluth volunteered to make two of the pivotal quilts from McTavish’s dream — the Peace Waterfall and the Peace Garden. McTavish herself researched and designed all of the quilts that portray the teachings of the Golden Rule in 17 major world faiths and humanist philosophies.

“My little town of Duluth has become much more diverse over the years,” saidMcTavish, now 76 who grew up in a non-religious family but had a Unitarian friend who introduced her to religion. “I know people who are 10 of these 17 faiths.”

Her sewing skills come from a grandmother who lived on a farm outside of Miamisburg where McTavish spent a month each summer as a child.

Those lessons paid off: folks who are interested in quilting, knitting, weaving or painting will enjoy the visual elements as well as the informational text that’s incorporated into many of the quilts.

McTavish said she designed each panel on the computer, then sewed it together learning new techniques at the same time she was learning about each religion.

You’ll see examples of “thread play” where layers of stitching create colorful scenes. Three-dimensional pictures of people, flowers, symbols and a replica of a medicine wheel are created using techniques such as couching, trapunto, applique and ribbon quilling. Beads, glitter and crystals add sparkle to borders and trims.

There are also examples of shadowed trapunto, a technique made famous by McTavish’s daughter, Karen, and now known as McTavishing.

The exhibition ends with quilted portraits of 15 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.

“As we see religious intolerance growing across the world, there is a critical need to encourage interfaith understanding,” said Chris Saunders of Oakwood, the museum’s Exhibits Team Leader. “Arranged as a labyrinth, the exhibition provides visitors an opportunity to learn about 17 faiths and to reflect on ways that they might work together to create world peace.”

She says that although labyrinths have been around for centuries, no single culture or religion can claim their origin.

Coming to Dayton

Jerry Leggett, the new executive director of the Peace Musem, said his museum decided to book the exhibit because it’s a unique way to encourage interfaith understanding, dialogue and cooperative peacemaking.

“It’s a fine example of the way the arts can be used to bring people together to create a more peaceful world,” he said.

The steering committee for the show was composed almost entirely of quilters. After discussing how to involve the quilting community, they decided to invite regional quilters to participate in a companion exibit at the museum’s Hall of Peace. Many of these quilts are for sale.

Subjects range from a quilted village and a tribute to Nelson Mandela to a “Peace Quilt,” covered with origami peace cranes. All are sized to be used as either wall hangings or lap quilts.

The area quilters include Carroll Schleppi and Winnie Fiedler, Kettering; Cheryl Connelly, Morrow; Kathy Jeffers, Centerville; Susan Pickrell, Troy; Becky Goodwin, Troy; Charlotte Paugh, Englewood; Shanda Sease-Gunter; Brookville; Meena Schaldenbrand, Plymouth, Mich.; Maxine Thomas, Jamestown; Anne Triguba, Westerville; and Teri Pyles, Tipp City.

“I want people to be tolerant of diverse perspectives without feeling like they have to change or make someone else change,” McTavish said.

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