If you don’t know about the “To Boston With Love” phenomenon, I’m here to tell you about it, and to say how proud I am today of the quilters of the world, but especially of the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild (VMQG), where it all began.
A member of the VMQG named Berene Campbell had a dream, literally, shortly after the Boston marathon bombings, and decided she had to reach out and find a way to let the people of Boston know how much the world cared about them. She was especially moved by the picture she saw of eight-year-old Martin Richard, who was killed in the bombings. In the photo, Martin was reacting to the murders of the school children in Newtown, Connecticut, and holding a sign that said “No more Hurting People, Peace.”
Berene, who has loved sewing her whole life, but was new to quilting, decided to make a few small patchwork flags in Martin’s honour, and in honour of all the people affected by this tragedy, and send the flags to Boston. And she had a feeling her colleagues at the VMQG in Vancouver, British Columbia (where my daughter, Holly Broadland ,happens to be founder and president) might like to join her. She talked to Holly and the group about it, found a contact in Boston (a fellow quilter named Amy Friend) and the rest, as they say, is social media history!
The request for the small 6” by 8” flags was circulated to quilting groups and “went viral” with quilters from around the world, including Japan, Brazil, Australia, and South Africa, coming on side and sending flags of love, peace, and solidarity. One flag had a handsewn ballet shoe on it with the words “dance again”, and was in honour of a dancer who lost her foot in the bombings. One from Australia showed a kangaroo with “hop” below him, and then an “e” added just beside him: some were peace signs, hearts, Boston logos, and all were sent, yes, with love.
Dawn Griffin, Director of Communications at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was wondering how they could show their support for all those who were suffering in the wake of the bombings when Amy Friend emailed her to ask if perhaps the Museum would like to display a “couple of hundred” flags of love and peace sometime in the next few months.
Dawn immediately got back to Amy saying, “Can you do it sooner?” and the race was on for quilters around the world to finish their flags and send them to Boston, where the Museum promised to display them like prayer flags stretched across their enormous glass courtyard.
Within five weeks of Berene calling Holly with the idea for the flags, this incredible project was completed, with 1,756 flags, which had arrived from around the world, on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
The exhibit opened Memorial Day weekend in the US, and more than 30,000 Boston-ites went through over that weekend. A friend of mine tried to get in and finally gave up because the lines were just too long. She’ll go back though…the flags will be on display until July 7 (through the 4th of July weekend) and the Museum apparently wants to display them again next year on the anniversary of the bombings.
The media in Boston, Montreal, the Yukon, Vancouver and Victoria, BC, (and more all the time), are onto this story, in all its heartwarming variations, and each time I read or hear more (CBC has done stories in various towns), I’m in tears.
Tears of joy and gratitude and compassion, tears of sadness and loss. As I said to Holly, this is one of the most moving and effective uses of social media I’ve heard of to date. It makes me re-think my rather standoffish attitude towards Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, Facebook, and even blogging, and instead want to embrace them. They all played a part in this saga, along with all those people around the globe who participated and are being touched by this wonderful show of kindness and caring .
As Dawn from the Museum said on the radio, “It has been absolutely amazing. We are overcome by joy and appreciation to all the quilters.” She has seen the many, many people who come to “soak in all of that love that came from all over the world.” It just shows you what one person’s idea, a compassionate community of quilters, and social media, can do.
Courtesy of Amy Friend and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, all rights reserved