In spring 2018 undergrads from the National Society of Black Engineers, together with high school Debutants from Links Inc, developed computational quilt patterns based on the play Hamilton.
How to Create a Hamilton Quilt:
- See the play!
- High school students brainstorm a list of concepts or themes that came to mind in watching the play
- Learned from the program:
- Dance blending with the music
- Desire to learn more about history
- Deepened your curiosity about Hamilton:
- Gestures are exciting and add value to the characters
- Using voices for change
- Music Composition
- Hidden truths of America
- Art for social change:
- Enhancement of the human race
- Making change by showing others how to change
- Learning how to adapt to other people
- Art that inspires
- Art is freeing
- Ability to understand how society has changed overtime
- Art for social change can be any form of expression
- Voice of the people
- Forward thinkers
- Hear each other’s views and work together
- Using social events to boarded your mind
- Develop a set of visual icons that correspond to the ideas. This was the hardest part, because many ideas were abstract. How do you visually represent the concept of “black actors playing white characters”? And the icons have to be simple silhouettes that can be cut from cloth, so no color or shading. The end result is here.
3D print the icons. These will be the templates for cutting your applique patches, so it does not matter
what color plastic you use.
Give the NSBE students an hour to learn the software, before the high school students arrive. Then mix
them together, and create 4 groups, with at least one undergrad in each high school group. Begin by
assigning each group one part of the quilt cultural background. So one group gets
Gees Bend; another gets Applachian; and so on.
They have to report back to the group on what they found out--what seemed most interesting to them--in
their own words (not just reading off the page).
- Students take the tutorial
- Students create virtual designs for their quilts
Hamilton Quilt Icons:
Hamilton himself-- maybe a block featuring Hamilton could be at the center. You could use a 72 degree rotation and have 5 of them.
Critiques of the show: Lyra Monteiro, Ishmael Reed and others points out that the shows multi-ethnic casting obscures the almost complete lack of historical people of color in the show, despite their importance in real history, and overstates Hamilton’s opposition to slavery. Just because you are making a quilt about the Hamilton play does not mean your quilt cannot include criticisms of it. That’s what art is for!
If I was doing a critique I would include something on how Banneker was left out of the story. See http://www.weeklystandard.com/the-time-a-free-black-man-challenged-thomas-jefferson/article/2009358 and then https://csdt.org/culture/adinkrax/index.html to understand this icon.
Black and Latino actors playing white characters. Or perhaps as symbolic of Caribbean origins of Hamilton. Again, it might be neat to have this overlap in some kind of pattern where they flip places, or rotate one around the other.
Write or Fight? Hamilton wants to join the battle, Washington wants him as secretary of the treasury. The musical influences could (arguably) be read as resonance with anti-gun themes in contemporary hiphop. (side note: Pistol outline was made from the actual pistol used in the duel with Aaron Burr.)
“Hidden truths of America” -- suggestion from the students. Could refer to the ways that Hamilton’s story is just not well known, or perhaps secrets such as Jefferson’s affair with Sally Hemmings.
Use of hiphop in an historical drama: It would be neat to do this in flipped sequences to convey the idea that while using hiphop in the play affects our sense of history, the reverse is also happening: the historical play affects how we perceive hiphop (" Miranda elevates the form through this marriage with musical theater storytelling, and in the process, ennobles the culture and the creators." (side note: does hiphop really need to be “elevated”? Isn't this critic implying some kind of hierarchy with white cultural aesthetics at top? Go deep!)
Ships could symbolize Hamilton’s caribbean origins, or the siege of Yorktown, etc.
Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?