Place Quilt: Exploring Visual Language through Sense of Place

Rob Beishline, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA
Author Profile


This is a small group activity for an art appreciation class. The activity is spaced out over an entire quarter. Students do field research by visiting a significant local place with cameras and notebooks, and transfer and adapt this information to create black and white panels that fit into a larger quilt format.

Learning Goals

Through this project students will explore the creative process, and how visual imagery can work as a type of language. They will also explore the significance of place as a source of inspiration in the arts.

Context for Use

This project is done in a small class of 24 students. Students work in small groups of 3 to 4 to create individual panels that are then combined into a single piece. Our process was spread out over a whole quarter. The hands-on aspect of the piece fit well with the lecture, video, discussion format of the rest of the class. I am sure the project could be adapted to fit into a shorter duration.

Description and Teaching Materials

Included is a PowerPoint with photographs outlining the process and finished product. I have also included an assignment sheet and writing prompts. I am still in the process of creating an efficient rubric for evaluation. Photos and text outlining the process. (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 6.2MB Feb28 13)
Student Assignment Sheet: Place Quilt (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 17kB Feb28 13)
Seeing Prompts to Guide Photography and Writing on Field Trip (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 12kB Mar1 13)

Teaching Notes and Tips

We used Tyvek building sheeting for our white background and black acrylic paint and Sharpie markers. We chose Tyvek because of its durability. In this basic class, I believe it is important for students to embrace the idea of black and white. There is plenty that can be done there, and it helps push the students to get creative with the use of visual language.
Students used a variety of techniques to create the images. See the PowerPoint to see how this was set up, and to see what emerged.


I am in the process of creating a simple journal/work log for the assignment. It is difficult to grade group work, but I believe that having students document activity of each session, and give a single sentence reflection is helpful as they reflect back on the process. In total, the students put in well over 100 people-hours on the piece.

References and Resources

Students research and reflect on the work of contemporary artist Kara Walker. She works with black and white silhouettes in a dynamic way. Find Kara Walker on the following link and click on "Watch Now": []

Beatrice Coron is another inspiring artist who works with black and white cut images:

Keith Haring: The video "Drawing the Line" is an excellent discussion of Keith Haring's work, and has some excellent examples of symbols and semiotics. []