Skip to main content

#CBfromHome Activity: South Bend Quilt Squares

pieces of recycled paper, magazines, and fabric layed out like a quilt

In Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…, the first comprehensive survey of the award-winning artist’s career, Thomas examines popular culture, and how art can raise awareness in the ongoing struggle for social justice and civil rights.

Today, we’d like to share an activity based on his work South Bend that you can do at home.

Hank Willis Thomas, South Bend
Hank Willis Thomas, South Bend, 2012, mixed media, including sports jerseys, 74 3/4 x 57 1/2 x 2 inches (framed). Private Collection

About South Bend

The title South Bend is a reference to a group of female quilters in Gee’s Bend, Alabama, who have received recognition both within their community and the art world for their beautiful quilts. Here the artist uses cut-up college basketball jerseys to create the popular “broken dishes” style of quilting, which uses a half-square triangle pattern. What are some patterns in quilts you have seen before? What do you think of when you see basketball jerseys?

Gee’s Bend women made quilts to keep themselves and their children warm in unheated shacks that lacked running water, telephones, and electricity. Along the way they developed a distinctive style, noted for its lively improvisations and geometric simplicity. This could have also been influenced by the isolation of their location, which caused them to use whatever materials were on hand, often recycling from old clothing and textiles. Do you have any quilts in your house? What do they look like? What are they made out of?

Activity: South Bend Quilt Squares

  1. Gather pieces of recycled paper, magazines, and fabric from around your house.
  2. Think of colors you would like to have in your quilt. Cut out triangles, rectangles, and squares out of the found materials.
  3. Arrange your cut pieces onto a sheet of paper. Start from the center of the paper and work your way to the outer edges.
  4. Use a glue stick to adhere your cut pieces directly to the sheet.
  5. When you are finished, cut the blank outer edges of the quilt.

The finished product will look similar to this:



Written by Kimberly Ly, Crystal Bridges art instructor.


Special thanks to our sponsors:

Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal… is supported in part by Phillips, Esther Silver-Parker, Deborah Wright, Arkansas Humanities Council, Walmart AAOC, and Kate & Greg Schaffer.

Youth and Family programming is supported in part by AMP Sign & Banner, Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services, Juan, Marcy and Joaquin Camacho, The Coca-Cola Company, iHeart Media, JTH Productions, Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Pinnacle Car Services, Procter & Gamble, Gordon and Carole Segal, The Simmons Family Fund, and ViacomCBS Consumer Products.

Education and Learning is supported in part by Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, The Northern Trust Company, Pamela and Wayne Garrison, Doug and Shelley McMillon, Jack and Melba Shewmaker Family, Neff and Scarlett Basore, Galen and Debi Havner, Lance and Sharon Beshore, Cardinal Four Foundation, Colgate-Palmolive Company, Harry Cornell, Cox Communications, Dorothy Hurt, J.M. Smucker Company, Kimberly-Clark, Nice-Pak Products, Inc., The Russell Berrie Foundation, Stephen and Claudia Strange, Felix and Margaret Wright.