Young Audiences of Western New York has partnered with Canalside to explore Western New York’s history tied to the Underground Railroad through the arts. This unique, interactive program will take place in the WNY Immediate Care Summer Pavilion, focusing on Master Teaching Artist, Phyllis Thompson and her Story Cloths program.

Phyllis Thompson works with fiber textiles, printmaking, photography and collage processes. Her workshops explore techniques of printmaking, collage and fabric construction with the history of African American quilting, and supports students creating meaningful personal images.

Participants will learn about the tradition of quilt making including the meanings and symbolism of several quilt designs. Examples of the work of Faith Ringgold, the quilts of Gee’s Bend, and the Underground Railroad freedom quilts will be presented to create specific context for the significance of quilts in history and in everyday life.

Considering the examples of traditional quilt designs and their meanings, Phyllis will guide participants in creating their own freedom quilt design with cut paper or cloth using basic geometric shapes that convey a message. She will ask participants to communicate with a family member, or neighbor with their designs, and relate the activity to their present life in Buffalo. For example, how can a design show a loved one that danger is near, or where to go for safety?

Once completed, participants can choose to add their story cloth square to a large, community installation that will hang in the Canalside pavilion. Growing throughout the summer, this collaborative quilt will embody the stories of our community, both past and present.


The Story Quilt will be on Display in the WNY Immediate Care Summer Pavilion by the Replica Canals on a daily basis through the end of July for all to enjoy and learn.