Julie Neu: Quilter, Fiber Artist, and Activist at Arlington Open Studios

CW/TW: mentions of mass shootings, gun violence, and death

A woman sits behind a sewing machine. Behind her is a quilt filled with tiny circles. She is sewing a piece of fabric with phrases on it that pertain to the recent Roe V. Wade decision. She wears a purple shirt and she is smiling.
Julie Brown Neu at her sewing machine.

After her college finals were finished and she was looking for something to do, Julie Neu decided to pick up quilt making as a hobby. Little did she know where her journey would take her.

Years into her quilting practice, Julie Neu received inspiration for a difficult yet profound topic. She describes her inspiration coming to her as if “on a wind.” It was after the tragic shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL when Julie Neu decided her next project would honor the victims of each mass shooting event in the United States since the Columbine shooting in 1999. The quilts that she makes have each victim’s name printed onto fabric, and the quilt itself is inspired by the flag of the state in which the shooting occurred.

a long blue quilt splays out over bright green grass. The quilt is placed in a graveyard, as there are tombstones behind the quilt. An American flag is positioned next to the tombstone. The blue quilt is decorated with stars, and under each star is a victim's name of the Las Vegas shooting in 2017.
Julie Brown Neu's quilt memorializing the victims of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting.

“It's hard to avoid the impact of the actual lives lost when you're standing at the end of the hallway, looking all the way down at what was at that time, three hundred and eighty three names just of people who died in major shooting events,” says Neu. This is how she got involved with the ACA. She had a personal connection to Pam Shanley, the Operations Director at the ACA, and reached out to her before the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shooting in 2019. Neu wanted to honor the victims of each mass shooting leading up to the 20th anniversary of this tragic event. Neu exhibited this project in spring 2019 at the ACA in her show Disarmed.

An image of a orange Bird of Paradise flower is printed on fabric. The flower is surrounded by green leaves. The image has a quilted border of bright orange fabric.
Paradise by Julie Brown Neu

Since her collaboration with the ACA, Neu has looked forward to the Open Studios event each year. “I love the energy of it,” she says. “You have so many spaces full of beautiful art, incredibly talented and interesting artists and art lovers.” Selling quilts is not Neu’s full time position, but she wishes it could be. “I can think of nothing I would like to do more than spend my days working on my art,” says Neu. “I already have a closet full of quilts; they don’t do anyone any good folded up in my closet!” Julie Neu will be at Arlington Open Studios on November 12th, 11 AM - 5 PM at the Town Hall, second floor.


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