A collaboration of faculty, students, and communities in the United States and Chile has emerged to jointly exhibit a collection of about sixty Chilean patchwork appliques called arpilleras at SUNY Potsdam’s Gibson Gallery and St. Lawrence University’s Brush Gallery in Spring 2019.
This website contains information on the exhibit and the historical context in which this art was produced. Our project provides a special opportunity to share the moving stories told by these works of art. Their stories began in 1973.
On September 11, 1973, a military coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet—and secretly supported by the Nixon administration—overthrew Chile’s democratically elected socialist government. During the years that followed, the Pinochet dictatorship abducted, tortured, and killed thousands of its perceived opponents. In response to this repression, Chilean women hand-sewn arpilleras from scraps of household cloth, sometimes using the clothing left behind by their abducted loved ones. The arpilleras dramatically depict the protest, repression, survival skills, and daily life of Chileans after the coup. Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a fair-trade women’s collective called Jubilee Crafts began marketing and exhibiting the arpilleras as a way to educate Americans about U.S. foreign policy toward Chile.
This exhibit draws directly from the Jubilee Crafts collection of arpilleras, which will eventually be donated to the permanent collection at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago, Chile.