NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

May 23, 2013

Flagged for Boston

West Newbury quilter helps organize special exhibit at Museum of Fine Arts

By Ann Reily
Features Editor

---- — Love and support for Boston will wave proudly this weekend in the form of hundreds of fabric flags hung at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Organized locally by West Newbury resident Amy Friend, “To Boston With Love” features flags created by quilters from the United States and around the world, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, France, Holland, Ireland, Japan and Scotland.

The exhibit was the idea of Berene Campbell of Vancouver, British Columbia.

“Right after seeing the news of the marathon bombings, she thought it would be nice to send expressions of love and peace to the city of Boston,” Friend said in an interview.

Campbell, who sells patterns and kits through her Happy Sew Lucky website, tells the story on her blog:

“I dreamed about a park with trees filled with bright bunting flags flapping in the sunshine. The flags had hearts, and messages of love and hope,” she writes. “People were sitting on benches and on the grass below the flags, looking peaceful and happy, comforted by the energy of the love flying above them.”

Campbell contacted friend and fellow quilter Krista Hennebury to ask her if she knew anyone in Boston. Hennebury suggested Friend, with whom she had connected online through their sewing blogs.

Friend quickly jumped on board and started spreading the word online, through her blog, Flickr, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild, Boston Modern Quilt Guild and Seacoast Modern Quilt Guild (of which Friend is a member) all agreed to participate, in addition to a number of other guilds and individuals from all over the world.

Tasked with finding a location in Boston for the exhibit, Friend wrote on her blog that “there was a constant nagging feeling inside me that said that I just had to contact the MFA.”

The museum, which opened in 1876, was originally located in Copley Square, the site of the bombings on April 15.

Campbell, who plans to attend the exhibit this weekend, created tutorials online so that each flag would have the same dimensions. She also suggested patterns and color schemes to help sewers get started, “though people deviate,” Friend said.

The flags feature everything from the “B Strong” message to running themes to birds to hearts to letters that spell out words when the pieces are strung together. A flag from Australia includes a kangaroo with “Hop{e}” below it.

“Someone spelled out Boston Strong with one letter per flag,” Friend said. “There are a lot of sports-themed flags, too.”

Friend, a former curator for the Wheaton College Permanent Art Collection, has been receiving the flags at her West Newbury home. She had more than 1,300 as of Tuesday and was expecting to get at least 1,500. The flags come from 44 U.S. states and 15 countries, she said.

“I guess I’m not surprised at the number of people participating,” she said. “They’re a generous and responsive bunch. It’s been rewarding to see them all participate.”

Friend created five flags for the exhibit, including one with the “B Strong” logo and another featuring an image of the Zakim Bridge. She said organizing and advertising the project and opening up all of the boxes has been time-consuming but worthwhile.

“In times of tragedy, it’s nice to have a way to focus my energy and not think about the dangers of the world quite so much,” said Friend, who has three children.

The flags will be hung in the museum’s Shapiro Family Courtyard from May 25 through July 7.

The exhibit is part of the “Boston I Love” Memorial Day Community Weekend, with free admission for visitors this Saturday through Monday. The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. each day, and donation boxes will be set up for The One Fund Boston.

If you go

What: “To Boston With Love,” an exhibit of fabric flags with messages of love and peace for Boston

When: May 25 through July 7. Museum hours are Saturday through Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.

Where: Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston

How much: Admission is free for Memorial Day weekend, Saturday through Monday. After that, admission is $25 for adults, $23 for seniors and students, $10 for youths ages 7 to 17 (free on weekdays after 3 p.m. and on weekends), and free for children 6 and under.

More information: Visit www.mfa.org or call 617-267-9300. To view some of the flags, visit www.flickr.com/groups/tobostonwithlove/.