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Comfort of Recovery quilt on display at Emory’s Woodruff Library

The Comfort of Recovery quilt, a collaboration between R2ISE to Recovery and the Carlos Museum, is now on display in Emory’s Woodruff Library on Level 2, just past the turnstiles and outside the Goizueta Business Library. It carries a message of hope for addiction recovery through creative works.

Quilts traditionally have been known as a form of storytelling. The Comfort of Recovery quilt follows that path, telling multiple stories of addiction recovery through the healing power of art and shared creativity in the company of others traveling the same road. The work is on display throughout the summer on the main level of Emory’s Woodruff Library. The Comfort of Recovery quilt results from a partnership between R2ISE to Recovery and the Michael C. Carlos Museum. Measuring 9 feet tall by 14 feet wide, the striking quilt features a prominent image of a tree, with the first names of those who created the panels stitched into the roots.

R2ISE is a nonprofit organization that uses the arts as a path to healing and recovery from addiction. The quilt emphasizes recovery as an ongoing creative process. Work on the quilt started in 2022. Since then, the hands of more than 100 people have contributed to the quilt, including R2ISE peers and supporters, Carlos Museum staff and Emory students.

“The Woodruff Library is honored to display the Comfort of Recovery quilt,” says Lisa Macklin, associate vice provost and university librarian. “Libraries collect and share stories of all kinds in all mediums, and the story of healing through art and creating a shared journey through a quilt is compelling. The beauty of the quilt draws your attention to the message and meaning of the Comfort of Recovery quilt.”

An unexpected partnership

One day, Carlos Museum director Henry Kim dropped by the R2ISE space at MET Atlanta. He met Alexia Jones, executive director and founder of R2ISE, and their conversation turned to the connection between art and recovery.

Kim learned that Jones and Rhonda Lawson, a military veteran and R2ISE recovery peer, had discussed having members of the R2ISE community create a quilt as an act of recovery.

“This led to a collaborative effort to share the beauty of art in recovery with medical professionals who may want to integrate art into their practices,” Jones said in an interview with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in February. That, in turn, led to the collaborative quilt work between R2ISE and the Carlos Museum.

“The quilt helps us illustrate the power of resilience and strength in overcoming all sorts of intersecting life challenges, including trauma,” Jones noted during that interview. “It has also united us and the broader community, revealing the common ground we all share when it comes to addiction, mental health and the opioid crisis, which affect people regardless of race, gender or sexual identity.”

Kim says the quilt and its message of healing through artistic creativity fit perfectly with part of the Carlos Museum’s strategic plan that links the arts and well-being. The finished quilt debuted during a reception at the Carlos with R2ISE peers and their families in September 2023.

A bit of the Carlos story is intertwined on the back of the quilt. A piece of the original Carlos Museum yellow T-shirt is below the pillars of recovery, featuring an illustration of the museum from the architecture firm that designed the building (see below).

Quilts in the Woodruff Library

The Comfort of Recovery quilt’s display in the Woodruff Library celebrates the connection between quilts and building community, particularly in African American communities.

Several other quilts have been displayed in the library over the years.

A wall hanging made by textile artist Leanora Mims is on display on Level 2, near the Comfort of Recovery quilt. It hangs in honor of Pellom McDaniels III, the late Rose Library curator of African American collections.

A brightly colored quilt that novelist Alice Walker hand stitched with a friend as she wrote “The Color Purple” was on display in the library’s recent exhibition “At the Crossroads with Benny Andrews, Flannery O’Connor, and Alice Walker.”

The Woodruff Library hosted the AIDS Memorial Quilt for many years following its display on Emory’s Quad to commemorate World AIDS Day. That display, held most recently in 2018, was in collaboration with the NAMES Project and Quilts on the Quad.

Timeline of travel

Following its unveiling at the Carlos Museum during a private event for R2ISE peers and their families in September 2023, the Comfort of Recovery quilt made a stop at the Georgia governor’s office. It was displayed at the Emory University School of Medicine in November 2023 and at Emory University Hospital in January 2024, before moving to the Emory Addiction Center in April.

The quilt traveled to the Marriott Marquis Atlanta Hotel during the CDC’s Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) conference in early May to share hope for overdose prevention. Then it was displayed from May 14-31 at The Carter Center as part of the annual Rosalynn Carter Georgia Mental Health Forum, before its installation on June 12 at Emory’s Woodruff Library.

“Alexia and her team’s work exemplifies the power of art to change lives, even to save lives. We at the Carlos have been honored to be welcomed into the R2ISE community,” says Elizabeth Hornor, associate museum director for public programs, who participated in making the quilt and now manages its display schedule.

In October 2024, the quilt will embark on a new journey across the state through the Georgia Public Library Service, continuing to spread its message of healing and hope at various public libraries, and connecting recovery and arts organizations in the cities and towns where it is displayed. The Carlos Museum is developing a webpage, which will debut in October, to track the quilt’s travels. For more information on the Comfort of Recovery quilt, email Elizabeth Hornor at the Carlos Museum. 

The reverse side of the quilt features pillars of recovery and quilt squares representing R2ISE peers and loved ones. Underneath the “We are Supported” pillar is a square from a bright yellow classic Carlos Museum T-shirt bearing the original architectural illustration of the museum.

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