Brooklyn, quilt maker, social activist
Sylvia Hernandez is a self-taught master quilter, storyteller and social activist. Her quilts depict images and words that have brought people to tears or stirred people to action, because they are reminders of social injustice.
“Never Again” is in remembrance of the victims of the Parkland Shootings, “Black Lives Matter” was inspired by an aerial view of the Black Lives Matter mural painted on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C, and “Injustice” was made after the death of George Floyd.
“I create story quilts to ensure that stories are passed on to others. There are so many hateful and heartbreaking things happening in the world that I feel a need to make beautiful, heartfelt pieces to take away some of the ugliness,” she says.
The Brooklyn resident has gained so much prominence lately her quilts have been displayed in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The Smithsonian American Art Museum is also considering exhibiting her quilts. Filmmaker Spike Lee has purchased four of her quilts.
Sylvia turned to quilting full-time when she retired from her career as a medical assistant in 2013. At the time, she was quilting occasionally, making memory quilts for families, including families of 9/11 victims and veterans. Through her charity work with the Brooklyn Quilter’s Guild, she made quilts to donate to newborns and babies in the neonatal unit at Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn.
Sylvia began making socially relevant quilts when President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, and she was invited to create quilts to tell his story.
Today, in addition to quilting, Sylvia is involved with social justice groups, is president of the Quilters of Color Network of NYC and teaches quilting to students at El Puente Academy of Peace and Justice.
“I never know what will inspire me. My quilts are created in my heart and soul before I make them visible,” she says.
“My name is Sylvia Hernandez. I make story quilts so that our stories will not be forgotten.”