The Crystal Quilt (1985-1987)

This is one of several works by Lacy that explore the experience of aging, and in this case how aging women are represented in media and public opinion. The project was developed over a two- year period during which Lacy created a series of events and classes, including a lecture series, film screenings, and a mass media campaign in collaboration with almost two dozen artists and scores of volunteers. A key part of the project was an Older Women’s Leadership Series designed by Sharon Anderson, a series that brought 35 women leaders from across the state together in seminars at the Humphrey Institute. 

This extensive research process culminated in a large-scale performance installation on Mother’s Day in the middle of a Philip Johnson-designed shopping complex with a crystalline roof. The performance featured 430 Minnesota women over the age of 60 seated at tables on an 82-square-foot rug designed to resemble a quilt. Over loudspeakers a pre-recorded sound work mixed personal observations and reminiscences by 72 women with social analysis about the un-utilized potential of the elderly. A loon cry or thunderclap rang through the space at ten-minute intervals, signaling the women participants to change the position of their hands on the table, thus changing the design of the quilt. At the end of the performance, an audience of almost 3000 people flooded the stage bearing hand-painted scarves. As they greeted the triumphant performers, they transformed the austere order of the quilt design into a crazy quilt of color. 

Participating artists include Nancy Dennis, Sharon Anderson, Phyllis Jane Rose, Phyllis Salzberg and Judy Kepes. Quilt design by Miriam Shapiro, scarves by Julie A, soundtrack by Susan Stone, choreography by Sage Cowles, and PBS live broadcast produced by Emily Goldberg. 

Sponsored by the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), the Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs Reflective Leadership Program, KTCA Public Television and the Minnesota Board of Aging, with cooperation from the Walker Art Center and At the Foot of the Mountain Theater.