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Columbia Point Community Quilt Project, 2001 | UMass Boston Digital Archives

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Brief Description: The collection includes photographs, exhibition and quilt material, posters, and press releases pertaining to the creation and exhibition of the Columbia Point Harbor Quilt Project. It also includes the finished quilt and photos of individual patches, along with the stories behind them that document the creators’ experience and memory of Columbia Point.

History: In July 1951, construction began on Columbia Point: a $20 million low-income housing project which would in time become home to six thousand people. Set on the edge of Dorchester Bay, the complex was built on mud flats in an area that had served as a cow pasture from the 17th through the 19th century. In 1884, the site began to be used as Boston’s sewage pumping station, serving as the dumping ground for the city’s refuse which had, over the course of the 20th century, increased the land mass of the peninsula from 14 to 125 acres. Built by the Boston Housing Authority in response to the housing demand following World War II, Columbia Point was one of six such projects that arose in the city during the 1950’s. With its twenty-seven monolithic yellow brick buildings, fifteen of them seven stories high, it would be the largest project not only in Boston, but also in New England. When the complex opened, there were no playgrounds, grocery stores, schools, or health clinics. Nor was there public transportation to access these services in neighboring communities. Residents came from diverse backgrounds and cultural traditions.

This quilting project was initiated and funded by Arts on the Point, a contemporary sculpture park on the campus of the University of Massachusetts Boston dedicated to promoting arts education programs that foster individual creativity and provide unique access to the art resources of the University and the City of Boston. The quilt, a 6 x 9 foot work titled ‘Families in Action – Memories form Columbia Point’, was created in the spring of 2001 by an inter-generational group of 15 current and former Columbia Point residents who worked under the leadership of fabric artist Clara Wainwright to record the history and personal memories of early residents of that community. It was exhibited in the Healey Library from September 17, 2001 through October 30, 2001 and later moved to the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln to be added to Clara Wainwright’s personal exhibition in the winter of 2002. It now hangs in UMass Boston’s University Archives and Special Collections reading room.