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Joshua Thomas - Artist Denise Allen is shown with some of her quilts.


Prints sprung from tragedy help others

Thursday, February 28, 2013 - Updated: 10:52 AM


C-S-E Editor

CANAJOHARIE — Palatine Bridge-based artist Denise Allen had 100 fine-art prints of her 9/11 Story Quilt — made in memory of her son, Richard L. Allen, Jr., who perished in the Twin Towers during the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 — created specifically to sell in order to benefit Tyson Fowler’s ongoing treatment.

The massive 5 1/2 by 12 foot quilt, along with prints, were on display, with the prints available to purchase during the benefit for Tyson on Sunday at the Canajoharie High School.

Allen was present during the event, not only giving demonstrations of her quilt-making skills, but also providing a history of the quilt, and how it has become an unexpected vehicle to enrich the lives of those in need.

The quilt was originally created in the wake of 9/11, over the course of a three-month period, commissioned by the Savannah College of Art Design, who, as part of a special 9/11 focused exhibition, asked several artists to create works in various mediums depicting their impressions of the tragic event.

When the college viewed Allen’s completed piece — depicting the stories of numerous people touched by 9/11, from the personal story of Allen, to the al Qaeda members planning the attack —  they deemed it too political and Holy Bible-oriented to display in the exhibition, reneging on the $30,000 commission. Understanding that it was unfair to leave Allen hanging after asking her to embark on such an emotional undertaking, the college decided to start an endowed scholarship in her son’s name, which will be provided in amounts of up to $50,000, never less than $3,000, to gifted aspiring artists.

As part of the promotion of the scholarship, the college also created two billboards that were displayed in Savannah, Georgia, containing a photo of Allen’s son along with information about his life and background.

“My heart and soul went into it,” Allen stated of the quilt, which she owns outright. With the quilt in her possession, instead of belonging to the college that originally commissioned it, Allen explained that she suddenly understood that she was being presented with an opportunity to use the emotional piece of art to touch the lives of others.

“I want to use this for ministry — to do something good,” Allen commented, adding of the scholarship that resulted from the creation of the quilt, “I didn’t get the commission, but I got something better. For the life of the college until the world ends, somebody is going to be blessed because of my son.”

Creating the 100 prints on sale at Sunday’s event was no easy task. The first thing that had to be done was to photograph the quilt in extremely high quality. Joe Fowler created the large frame the quilt was displayed on Sunday, and had his brother photograph the piece, which took a significant amount of time.

After the process, “we were beat, we were tired, it took a couple hours,” said Allen, who commented that when she sent the final image to the company in Albany hired to make the fine-art prints, “as sharp as the image was — we couldn’t utilize it to make a reproduction image,” as blowing it up to the size required for prints blurred the piece’s fine detail, especially the thin text found throughout.

Allen then transported the quilt to Albany to be specially photographed by professionals, who provided her with three different sized images to make promotional postcards, banners and prints.

The quilt, which already has meant so much to so many people, and has taken on a life of its own with Allen’s son’s memory as the vehicle, will continue to be used for good. Allen commented that while the piece was created while the tragedy was “still fresh in my heart,” she couldn’t be happier that the memory of her son, of whom she stated, “He was a wonderful human being. He was just a great guy,” will live on through the quilt, blessing others into the indefinite future.

The first print created as part of the 100 made to benefit Tyson Fowler will be framed and donated for inclusion in the World Trade Center memorial, set to open in the near future.

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