As part of the Warren County Arts Council’s Third Annual Public Arts Day showcase, Jereann King Johnson of Warrenton earned the most votes for her quilt depicting John Earl Alston, entitled “On the Shoulders of History.”
The showcase was held on June 6 at Drip Coffee and Market in Warrenton, when more than 50 votes were cast from members of the public asked to select the composition they felt best represents Warren County. The quilt will join other artistic creations on display in the art gallery of the North Carolina Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Raleigh. The EOC houses a collection of art from across the state, representing each county. Warren County has not yet been represented.
The quilt will be presented to Mike Sprayberry, director of North Carolina Emergency Management and the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resilience, at the Aug. 3 board of commissioners meeting on behalf of the Warren County Arts Council and Warren County Emergency Services.
Public Arts Day showcase featured 11 works of art from five artists, including King Johnson, Ivan Richardson, Angela Whitney, Melinda Ring and Jane Steelman.
Working Landscapes, a Warrenton-based nonprofit, funded the quilt project in partnership with the North Carolina Arts Council and Warren County Arts Council.
Growing up in rural Warren County, John Earl Alston learned land stewardship from family, both as a source of healthy living and a foundation for entrepreneurship. Today, he is a community organizer, activist, and philanthropist, beekeeper, farmer and pastor at Outreach Church in Henderson.
On his land in Norlina, Alston grows apple, peach, and pear trees, blackberries, grapes and broccoli, and raises chickens — all of which he shares with his congregation and community members.
“On the Shoulders of History” is King Johnson’s tribute to a leader.
“It’s an honor to have been chosen (as a subject and winner),” said Alston. “It’s my first time being featured on a quilt.”
Alston said he has known King Johnson for 30 years, and interested in the same things for the community.
King Johnson, who’s been quilting for some 60 years, said she interviewed and took pictures of Alston and his land, thought for a while about how to proceed and worked on the quilt for about a month. She explained how she sees how his sense of commitment to land stewardship and the community are woven together and wanted to portray that in her quilt.
“He’s such a generous person,” King Johnson said. “When I heard the challenge was to depict farm life in Warren County, I knew right off that I wanted to feature John Alston. “
Charla Duncan, chair of the Warren County Arts Council said, King Johnson’s “On the Shoulders of History” is a great piece.
“We are proud to send a Warren County-based artist’s work on to Raleigh,” she said. “We feel that both the subject of the quilt as well as the textiles medium pay great homage to our heritage in Warren County.”
Given the current state of affairs surrounding COVID-19, Duncan said this is a particularly interesting time to send a piece on to the state’s Emergency Operations Center, which is brimming with activity.
“We like to think about Gov. Cooper, Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, or Director Sprayberry taking a break from the day and walking the halls of the EOC, taking in the art.”
This project was done in partnership with Warren County Emergency Services and the quilt will become a part of the EOC’s collection.