Town tapestry: Students make quilt of Janesville

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February 6, 2008
— The second-graders were impressed with how big it is.

“gy-normous!” said one boy.

All the children at Roosevelt School are getting a first look at their as-yet unfinished quilt this week.

They started working on it with visiting artist Nancy Daly of Madison last semester. Kindergartners made cutouts of butterflies, birds and flowers. Third-graders made the people.

The fourth- and fifth-graders decided what landmarks should be included: parks, the courthouse, Italian House restaurant, a Dairy Queen, the General Motors plant and their own school.

Yes, this cooperative artwork is a map of Janesville. And at 6 feet by 12 feet, it’s big enough to take the place of a tapestry on a castle wall.

The map also features the Monterey Stadium, and Rock River, complete with a train crossing a bridge and a pyramid of Rock Aqua Jays skiers in spangled costumes.

The quilt’s theme is “Our Town, Our World,” which is also the title of a song the kids are learning in music classes.

Children are involved in most stages of production. They brainstormed what should be on the map and created images of multi-patterned cloth.

The idea is to expand the children’s horizons about the place they live, said art teacher Sue Shotliff.

“It gets their creativity flowing. It gets them thinking about Janesville,” Shotliff said.

Daly took the dozens of images the kids created and safety-pinned each on to a spot. Monday, kids started stitching them in place.

Third-grader Peter Allen said he stuck himself with the needle several times, but he kept at it, as did several others.

Some did something they’re never allowed to do: climb up on the tables to reach their creations.

“I like the getting-on-the-table part,” said Bailey Nandory.

Other third graders said they liked:

-- “Cutting out the people, because I kind of like cutting,” Karley Kraus.

-- “I like actually drawing the people, because you make your own shirts and stuff,” said Nick Cropp.

Nick also liked to see how his fellow student’s ideas came to life.

-- “I like sewing on the beads,” said Brianne Gies, because she had never done that before.

One student found that art is hard work. “My neck hurts,” he said after a class period on his knees up on a table, bending over his stitching.

The project is funded with a grant from the Janesville Education Foundation and support from the Roosevelt PTA.

After a public unveiling in May, the quilt is destined for the wall of a hallway at Roosevelt.

Unveiling scheduled

The public is invited to an unveiling of the Roosevelt Elementary School quilt-map of Janesville at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, at the Janesville Performing Arts Center, 408 S. Main St. The event will include a documentary on the making of the quilt, produced by local videographer Howard Gage.

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