In Plain Sight: Girls of Color Tell Their Stories With The Guidance of Artists Hamilton Glass and Austin Miles

Our Girl Action Team program is at it again! For the first time this year, local artists Hamilton Glass and Austin Miles came together to coach a Girl Action Team that explored the art of storytelling through pattern making. Girl Action Teams are one of the core offerings of local nonprofit Girls For A Change. They are designed to support girls in fully developing their voices, abilities, and problem-solving capacities to realize their full potential. Each team is different but their purpose is always the same: help her develop her voice while tackling a social issue she feels passionate about – all under the guidance of a coach. 

Under the direction of artists Hamilton Glass and Austin Miles, the girls explored different aspects of visual arts, storytelling, and narratives while considering their connection to conflicts, reconciliation, and peacebuilding in their personal lives and communities. The girls created 2’ x 4’ quilt-like art pieces that tell their story and speak to what it means to be a Black girl in 2019. Now that the quilts have been made, the girls are showcasing their work at three galleries around town over the summer to involve the community and raise awareness of the issues they face. 

“Quiltmaking is one of the oldest forms of creative storytelling in the African American community. Traditionally, quilts are passed down through your family to tell their story. That is not their only purpose, though. During slave times, quilts and the specific patterns on them, were used to communicate directions or safe places,” explains Hamilton Glass.

Hamilton is no stranger to Girls For A Change, he has done several projects in collaboration with the non-profit organization. The biggest being the community mural on the corner of East Broad and North 1st St. that celebrates Black Girls. That project was also an idea that came from a group of girls in a Girl Action Team who wanted the mural to represent narrative change about the presence of black women and girls. 

“The mural we did was more about creating art that was on display for everyone to see and translate themselves. For this project, I wanted the girls to have the experience of actually going into different galleries and talking to people they normally wouldn’t,” said Hamilton. He added, “I have taught or shown how to make art, but presenting it is a little bit different. I wanted the girls to see validation through that experience.”

Over the course of 12 weeks, Hamilton and Miles explored a variety of topics and exercises. They learned about the history of quiltmaking and some of the heaviness of its past, they learned about living African American quiltmakers and how the tradition is still alive and well, and they learned expression through art. 

“Every class, Austin and I would ask the girls questions about themselves and how to express that through patterns. Everything was an exercise in language through pattern,” explains Hamilton. “The quilts are all questions that prompted them to talk about themselves and then narrate to the viewer.” 

The workshop allowed the girls to express themselves creatively, tell their stories, and practice public speaking. Now, they get to share what they created with the community while raising awareness for Black girl issues.  

Along with showcasing their work, this Girl Action Team has the unique opportunity to create an art installation that will be showcased in 1708 Gallery’s Annual InLight exhibition. They will be collecting responses to two prompts at each of their showcase events that will be used to create a quilt of light. 

The prompts are:

  1. Write an Adjective that describes a Black Girl.
  2. Write a wish that will bring light to a Black Girl.

While the first event has already passed (it was held at Art 180), this one more coming up that are open to the public.

The girls are available for interviews prior to or at the event. 


Angela Patton, CEO, Girls For A Change