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The “We Are Somebody” Quilting Program

Christine Vinh and Artistic Artifacts owner Judy Gula present Roy Mitchell's quilting students with three bolts of Indonesian-made material for their classroom.

Christine Vinh (left) and Artistic Artifacts owner Judy Gula present Roy Mitchell’s quilting students with three bolts of Batik Tambal Exclusive Batiks for their classroom.

We Are Somebody Quilting Program presents Just 4 U sign

The Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival is always a good event for Artistic Artifacts. Because it takes place in Hampton, VA, we see lots of local friends who have made the trip. And we are always grateful for our many repeat customers who seek out the Artistic Artifacts booth to see what we brought along with us. We are inspired by the works many of our customers have in the show and pieces they bring along with them to show us.

This year a particular highlight was meeting up with Roy Mitchell, Jr. and three of his quilting students, young men incarcerated at The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice’s Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center. We have met Roy in the past when he brought the young men to the show for inspiration, but this year was special. Mitchell’s students had their own special exhibit in the show, We Are Somebody: Quilting Program presents Just 4 U. The use of color, design, and workmanship of the 19 quilts by these young men deserved their place in the show, and we’d like to share our photographs of some of these beautiful works.

Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

From the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival’s description of its 2018 Virginia Quilt Guilds special exhibits: “The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice’s (DJJ) quilting program, believed to be the only quilting class in the country in a male juvenile corrections setting, teaches not just the hard skills involved in this difficult craft — planning, design, measuring, geometry, sewing — but also critical life skills such as goal-setting, patience, frustration management, public speaking, and the value of precision. Instructor Roy Mitchell, Jr. instills the notion that ‘You Are Somebody’ to all his students. Hundreds of quilts made by DJJ residents have been given to hospitals and homeless encampments, and featured in art galleries in Virginia, Michigan and California.”

Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

We took the opportunity to talk with Mr. Mitchell and his students — who learn his class mantra “I am somebody” when they enter his classroom — upon seeing them in the exhibit area near our booth. The pride and joy on their faces was enough to bring us to tears. When we asked who did the quilting of their pieces, one of the boys was quick to say he was the quilter.

DJJ Quilting Instructor Roy Mitchell lifts a quilt to reveal the intricate detail work on the back.

DJJ Quilting Instructor Roy Mitchell lifts a quilt to reveal the intricate detail work on the back. He has been teaching quilting since 2012.

We encouraged them to take full advantage of the skills they have learned in the quilt classes. We were so impressed that we presented several bolts of our Batik Tambal Exclusive Batik fabric (pictured at the top of this post) for use in their classroom to the group, with a promise to stay in touch and make future donations. By the end of our conversation Mitchell was planning a road trip to Artistic Artifacts with some of his students to spend a day with our local quilters.

Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

The boys also give back to their community, and recently Mitchell, accompanied by Deana Williams, director of post-secondary programs at Yvonne B. Miller High School, took 35 of the students’ creations to the Third Street Bethel AME Church in Richmond to give to homeless people who were waiting outside the church for a meal. Participants in the program have created quilts that have been exhibited throughout the country and have also created a Virginia-themed quilt that now hangs in the lobby of the Patrick Henry Building in downtown Richmond.

Square in a Square, 46 in. x 80 in., by L.R --Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

Square in a Square, 46 in. x 80 in., by L.R

Visit the Sewing With Nancy website to watch a video of Nancy Zieman’s January 2017 interview with Roy Mitchell, which includes a view of the Virginia-themed quilt — an impressive 10 feet by 12 feet — from the Patrick Henry building. You’ll also learn he has very stringent entrance requirements for this special program. (At least one Artistic Artifacts staffer is certain she would flunk the math exam!)

Fading, 78 in. x 88 in. by J.M. -- Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

Fading, 78 in. x 88 in. by J.M.

We look forward to their future visit to Artistic Artifacts and hope to support them in their quilting endeavors. We also hope you are as inspired as we were by the creativity and workmanship shown by these young men, and by the dedication of their instructor, who has taught quilting to 200 participants with a 0% recidivism.

Something Out of Nothing, 43 in. x 61 in., by B.B. -- Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

Something Out of Nothing, 43 in. x 61 in., by B.B.

Flower in a Garden, 55 in. x 55 in. by D.H. -- Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

Flower in a Garden, 55 in. x 55 in. by D.H.

Posted in Fiber, Photos, Quilts | Tagged , , | 7 Replies

About Judy

I am a fiber person. I have been involved in fiber art since elementary school. After graduating college with majors in Fashion Design and Business Marketing, I have since learned to weave, sew, dye, stamp, quilt, bead. All those experiences and contacts have bought me to fiber art and mixed media through art quilts and my fiber jewelry. And I inherited the collector gene too - I enjoy hunting and gathering really cool stuff which the casual observer would think has outlived it's usefullness and use it in my art.

7 Comments to “The “We Are Somebody” Quilting Program”

  1. Sharon

    Loved learning more about this program and Nancy Zieman’s interview of Roy Mitchell. A heartwarming story… and the quilts are impressive!

    Reply
  2. Karen S

    What a terrific program! I hope I can meet this teacher and his students when they visit Artistic Artifacts.

    Reply
  3. Susan Cavanaugh

    Wow….I am so impressed with the quilts by these young men! I also have been teaching a quilting program in an adult detention facility in No Va. for the past four years. We are lucky to get in 2-3 hours a week so I can imagine what they would be able to accomplish in 8 hours a day. I would be interested in contacting Roy and learning more about his program.

    Reply
  4. Kay

    The quilts made by the young men are so amazing. The quilts are all very unique and special. Thank you for sharing such a feel good story.

    Reply
  5. Jennifer Emry

    Is there a way to donate to this DJJ program? I have books, tools (many scissors, rotary cutters, etc), fabrics.

    Reply
  6. CHRISTINE VINH

    These young men were certainly inspiring and most likely know far more about quilting than most of us. Mr Mitchell is a god send at their time of need.

    Reply

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