Local library hosts Migrant Quilt Project

Krystle Wagner • Aug 13, 2018 at 12:00 PM

The Migrant Quilt Project is now on display at Loutit District Library.

The exhibit runs through Sept. 4.

Migrant Quilt Director Jody Ipsen and quilt artist Mary Vaneecke will make a free presentation and provide guided interpretive tours of the quilts at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15.

According to the project’s website, it’s a grassroots effort of activists, artists and quilt makers to “express compassion for migrants from Mexico and Central American who died in Southern Arizona deserts.” Materials used for the quilts were collected at “lay-up sites” used to rest, eat and exchange clothing.

Ipsen founded the project in 2007 as a way honor migrants who died in the Tucson Sector. Since 2000, 3,200 people died in that area, she said.

While hiking along the Huachuca Mountains in 2006, Ipsen said she and a friend came across a “lay-up site” that had clothing, backpacks, shoes and children’s clothing. Ipsen, a humanitarian aide worker since 2005, said she was appalled at the items that were left, and it sparked her curiosity as to why people were crossing the border.

The following year, Ipsen took a backpack trip through Central America and Mexico to find the root causes behind some migration.

Ipsen said she will share what she found and images from her desert hikes during the presentation. She said she hopes people find compassion in their hearts for the individuals who migrate.

“These are real human lives,” Ipsen said.

After seeing the Migrant Quilt Project exhibit in Tucson, Arizona, Spring Lake resident Linda Rogers, who volunteers at local naturalization ceremonies, suggested bringing it to the Grand Haven library.

The exhibit is made possible by a grant from the American Quilt Study Group, Library Director John Martin said.

The library is using the Lighthouse Quilt Guild’s system to hang up the project quilts. Objects found in the desert will also be displayed in cases the library is borrowing from the Tri-Cities Historical Museum.

Rogers said she’s also involved in Samaritans, a humanitarian group in Green Valley, Arizona, that’s a branch of the Tucson group. Among some of the group’s efforts, they take trips into the desert to provide food and water to people. Rogers said they legally can’t transport anyone. Rogers said she would like to see more legal programs that allow workers to cross the border and return home when they’re finished.

A separate event will be take place at Loutit District Library the following week. The Stolen Lives Quilt Project event is scheduled for 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22, in Program Room B.

The Stolen Lives Quilt Project is a “national initiative that educates Americans on the extensive human cost of an unsecured border,” according to the event’s description. It was started in 2009. The project gives names and faces to victims who have had their lives and futures “stolen” by “illegal aliens,” according to the event’s description. The Remembrance Project, a nonprofit based in Texas, made the exhibit possible.

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