For many years, Diane Johns has been a member of the DeKalb County Quilters’ Guild, serving one term each as president, secretary and treasurer.
Almost 20 years later, it was the controversy over her pro-homosexual artwork that sparked disagreement and tore the group apart.
The controversy began when the DCQG board of directors banned her quilt, “The L-Word,” from their Harvest of Quilts show because it contained derogatory references and could be offensive, said Jill Draves, DCQG president.
The 25-by-25 inch quilt, inspired by the television show, had quotes from lesbian composers and writers and included phrases such as “diesel dyke,” “sappho” and “butch.”
Johns, a lesbian herself, said the quilt was meant to be a humorous tribute and a way to educate and raise awareness of the gay community.
Johns said she was willing to compromise with the board and offered to post an explanation for her piece. She said she was disappointed the board was not willing to compromise.
“They would rather be ignorant and intolerant, which goes against their mission to support the creative exchange of ideas,”Johns said.
The DCQG board of directors, who first allowed the quilt to be in the show, decided on Tuesday to ban it and sent a notice to Johns explaining why it was not permitted, said DCQG Show Chair Nancy Baker.
Draves said coming to the decision was not easy, since there were some board members who disagreed. She said the board banned the quilt because it thought the words used could be especially offensive to the families and children in attendance.
“We had a problem with the words she used,” Draves said. “She used words that could really offend some people.”
Draves said the decision caused major dissension, resulting in several quilters pulling their entries out of the show in protest.
DCQG will hold its DeKalb County Harvest of Quilts show this weekend. The event will feature 250 entries and international artist Laura Wasilowski.
Johns said she will hold a separate quilt show featuring her quilt and the quilts of those who pulled their entries this weekend. She also plans to stand outside the DCQG show and hand out fliers protesting the show and promoting her own.
Johns said after spending so much time as a guild member, she is disappointed to experience resistance that, she said, was fueled by fear and ignorance.
“I have a long history with this guild,” Johns said. “It’s just sad that it has to be this way.”
Johns said she has not officially ended her membership with the guild, but does not plan to participate in any more events.
Banned Quilt Show
Who: Diane Johns’ “The L-Word” quilt and others
Where: Unitarian Universal Fellowship, 158 N. Fourth St.
When: Noon to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday
Source: Diane Johns, member of DeKalb County Quilters’ Guild