For the past two years, Neeta Verma, Robert P. Sedlack, Jr. Professor of Visual Communication Design in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, and Liu Institute faculty fellow, has been leading “The Memory Project: Reweaving Threads of Loss, Love, and Hope,” a community-engaged research project in collaboration with the Center for Social Concerns. The project takes a creative approach to violent acts perpetrated in the community, acts often taking the lives of young people.
As Verma explains, “research demonstrates that a great deal of healing comes from expression, especially artistic expression. Through the use of abstraction or symbolism, you can give tangible shape to complex feelings of loss, grief, and trauma that may sometimes be difficult to express through words.”
“The Memory Project“ focuses on mothers who have experienced an unexpected loss due to gun violence. Styled as a workshop, participants are able to use stitching, embroidery, fabric painting, applique, patchwork, and craft blankets that celebrate the lives of those lost. Family and friends join in the work, which helps those affected to reconstruct memories that crafts capture in a form that will endure.
The aim is to empower mothers, their families, and young people to recognize the power of narrative responses to loss and grief. The resulting pieces are at once commemorative and an act of defiance against the perpetrators of violence. The project is built around the insight that when you heal the mother, you heal the family, and when you heal the family you heal a community. Every blanket is a tribute to the transformative journey from grief and loss to resilience and empowerment.
The project was made possible with generous funding from the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund, the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County, the City of South Bend, and the Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame.
Photographs reproduced with permissions from participants © Neeta Verma