Using yarn installation to create a thread to Rochester's social activism past

Jul 25, 2019

Hinda Mandell, left, and Juilee Decker stand in front of knitted sample squares at the future site of their Corinthian Hall Craft Intervention.
Credit Beth Adams / WXXI News

Two local women are using a yarn installation to create a thread from Rochester's social activism past to today.

Today, Corinthian Street near the intersection of State and Main streets is nothing more than a hotel parking lot.  But in the mid-19th century, it was the site of Corinthian Hall, where crowds gathered to hear social activists like Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony speak.

In the summer of 1851, the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Sewing Society was formed. Six middle-class white women sold hand-crafted items to fund Douglass' The North Star newspaper and to help 136 escaped slaves flee to Canada on the Underground Railroad.

Hinda Mandell, associate professor at Rochester Institute of Technology's School of Communication, and Juilee Decker, associate professor of museum studies at RIT, are planning what they call a "Corinthian Hall Craft Intervention" next month to highlight this part of Rochester history.

"We are crafting, and we're asking community members to craft, 7-inch by 7-inch crocheted or knit squares that we are going to put all along the railing on Corinthian Street," Mandell said.

Decker said there is no one political message tied to the exhibit.

"People come away with what they come away with,” she explained. “The meaning-making happens on the part of the visitor and the viewer and the person who sees it."

The installation will open on Aug. 21.  Community members interested in contributing to the display can contact Mandell and Decker and learn about an upcoming exhibit, Crafting Democracy: Fiber Arts and Activism, at craftingdemocracy.com.

Click on the LISTEN link above to hear an interview with Hinda Mandell.