From the Underground to the Court House

Artist: Schetauna Powell

The quilt pattern is titled from the Underground Railroad to the Court House Steps. The pattern employs three different traditional patterns in African American Quilting practice: The Jacobs Ladder/Underground Railroad pattern, the Bricklayer/Court House Steps pattern, and the Pig Pen pattern. The piece is a reference to the indirect way change happens in life. There are 6 repetitions of the Jacobs Ladder/Underground Railroad pattern to show how much organizing occurs out of sight. The Court House Steps indicate official capacities that are accessible only after the organizing work has occurred.

This pattern speaks to my experience as an artist working in community engaged arts. Often in my early career I longed to be official and to make a difference. I began organizing small art shows for my friends in bars and locals spots we enjoyed. This work of organizing art shows built the basic skills I needed to organize conferences and larger more professional shows. Today I find myself on the steps of official buildings like the Art Institute of Chicago. This work of design and creating only happened because I began with underground shows that were just for me and my community to celebrate ourselves.

Use the Artivive App to view the augmented reality (AR) on the pattern.

About the Artist

Schetauna Powell

Schetauna Powell came to SAIC from Houston, Texas for her MFA in Designed Objects. She has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Houston and a M.A. in Pan African Studies from the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

In the intervening years, Schetauna worked as a Museum Educator at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. While there she taught object based learning curriculum to K-12 students across the greater Houston area, culminating in her first curated art exhibition featuring the work of her students. From there, Schetauna worked as a Museum Consultant for the Houston Museum of African American Culture where she organized the Black Speculative Art Movement Conference between 2019 to 2020, titled “The Afrofuture” and “Perfect Vision” respectively. In her work as an arts advocate Schetauna maintains a Design Firm called Artivism Community Art that focuses on semiotics through object making. To support her practice, Schetauna produces the podcast “Afrofuturism in the A.M.”, which you can find on Spotify and other streaming platforms. You can speak to Schetauna about: Need help creating a Life Work Plan? Organizing project concepts? Creating a Strategic Plan? Schetauna is focused on having conversations that help clarify intentions. She works to cultivate practices of healthy leadership and community building.