STITCHING TIME: The Social Justice Collaboration Quilts Project

September 12 - December 9, 2022
Opening Reception: Monday, September 12, 5-7 p.m.
Artist Talk: Tuesday, September 13, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.
Panel Discussion: Friday, November 18, 7-8 p.m.

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In 1997, incarcerated men serving life sentences at Louisiana State Penitentiary, known colloquially as “Angola” after the former plantation on which it is located, created a hospice program to care for the dying among them. To raise money for the program, the Angola hospice volunteers, themselves sentenced to life imprisonment, made and sold quilts. In 2012, one of the hospice quilters, Kenya, and his long-time friend, Maureen Kelleher, founded the Social Justice Collaboration Quilts Project. The goal of the project is to support artists who work behind prison walls and give voice to the political consciousness of imprisoned and free quilters. The project has since spread beyond Angola prison to include incarcerated quilters in other institutions.

This exhibition focuses on work made by the founders of the Social Justice Collaboration Quilts Project, Kenya, and Kelleher, and the first member of the Project, Sharif as well as Leonard Peltier, Zulu, Ramsey Orta, Abu Ali, Tex, Louisiana State Penitentiary Hospice Volunteers and inmates of Norton Correctional Facility. Their quilts address racial injustice in American history and celebrate Black creativity, thought, and political activism.

Each quilt in this exhibition is paired with an audio recording. The recordings were arranged by Kelleher and feature the quilters reflecting on their work, along with music that captures the spirit of the project.

A message from co-founder and inside quilter Kenya 

HELLO,  U Mass, and Augusta Savage Gallery !

We, Maureen Kelleher and I, -- the co founders of The Social Justice Collaboration Quilts Project —  hope to  empower people, enrich lives,  and enhance communities through quilting.  This Project has set us on an exciting course to grow and stay socially connected, via the cultural and visual voices of our quilts.  Through the quilts and the   "visual conversation”  they stimulate,  we are excited about our mission. We want the world to know of the power and beauty of the Angola Hospice Program, the diversity of our membership and creativity, and the power of our voices that come from behind the prison walls. Art is empowering  and beautiful,  for free and incarcerated persons alike.

We are so happy to bring this Project to U MASS, and honored to have our quilts exhibited in The Augusta Savage Gallery. The Quilt Project is  grateful for the leadership of curator Alexia Cota. Thank you, Alexia.  We appreciate the support from faculty and friends of the  U Mass. community.

U Mass, and The New Africa Building in particular,  is where James Baldwin taught in the 80’s.  This is where the literary, political and cultural influence of James Baldwin himself,  as well as his writings and political activism, is most strongly felt.  We at the Project hold Baldwin in high esteem and you will see him and read his words on many quilts in the exhibition. 

U Mass will always be embraced as a dear friend of the Quilts Project, as we make positive strides in the social justice movement together.  

Kenya Baleech Alkebu
September 18, 2022    

Forward, through the razor wire.


Artist Talk: Tuesday, September 13, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.


The Social Justice Collaboration Quilts Project founder Maureen Kelleher speaks about her project, the quilts and the artists who've contributed to this powerful exhibition.


Panel Discussion: Friday, November 18, 7-8 p.m.

A group of scholors, activists and artists discuss the importance of creative expression for incarcerated and formally incarcerated artists.