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From Demonstration to demonstration: Workshop leads to new protest banner lending library

October 25, 2017

Aram Han Sifuentes

Join the Pick Museum of Anthropology and NIU’s Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality for a hands-on Protest Banner Lending Library workshop led by Chicago-based textile artist Aram Han Sifuentes. The workshop will be held at the Pick Museum in Cole Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 8, from 4-7 p.m. All students, faculty and staff are welcome and encouraged to attend the workshop. Sifuentes will show examples of other banners then lead participants in making their own. No previous sewing experience is necessary. Banners made at the workshop will become part of a repository where people can check them out and take them to future demonstrations. All of the banners created at this workshop will become a Protest Banner Lending Library for students at Northern Illinois University.

“The Pick Museum and the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality wanted to work with Aram to start a Protest Banner Lending Library at NIU because we have a very engaged student activist community on campus and we want to support all of the work they do to better serve their communities,” explained Laura McDowell Hopper, curator of the Pick Museum of Anthropology.

“Given the powerful and activist-inspired messages of the Museum’s Quilts and Human Rights exhibit, we want to give students an opportunity to respond to what they see in the museum and in their own lives, and provide a space to learn about the long help tradition of using textiles as a way to raise awareness of global social issues,” she added.

The Protest Banner Lending Library began as a way for Sifuentes to participate in demonstrations that she was unable to attend. “Banners are a way for me to resist what is happening in the United States and in the world,” Sifuentes says. “It is a way to put my voice out there and not stay silent. In these workshops I realized that there were many people who came because they needed to find a way to participate, resist and speak up but also couldn’t always go to protests because they too were mothers, non-citizens, undocumented – those who would be at great risk if caught and arrested.”

Sifuentes, a lecturer in fiber arts at the School of the Art Institute, hosted her first protest banner workshops in her home. The workshops quickly became too popular and Sifuentes began hosting them in museums and art centers. Protest Banner Lending Library workshops have been hosted at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Wing Luke Museum of Asian American Experience and more. Work from the Protest Banner is currently being shown in London’s Design Museum for its “Beazley Designs of the Year” exhibit, and banners have also been shown locally at the Lillstreet Art Center and the Chicago Cultural Center.

“The words and these banners have a growing history,” says Sifuentes. “They are made by someone, used in a protest, returned to the library and then taken by someone else to a different protest. The banners carry the histories of the hands that made and hold them, and the places they have and will travel.” Learn more about the Protest Banner Lending Library by visiting Sifuentes’ website.

Wake Up and Resist banner

This program is part of the Pick Museum’s current exhibit “Quilts and Human Rights,” open now through Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is free, and all are welcome. Come on your own or book a free guided tour by using the museum’s online tour reservation form. The exhibit is made possible through the generous sponsorship of Cordogan, Clark and Associates Inc., and all exhibit programming is co-sponsored by NIU’s Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality.