Walsh Lounge Honors Three Generations of Alumnae

October 31 2017
Category: Alumni

Quilt Dedication

The Walsh Lounge in Cowles Hall, and a commissioned art quilt, were dedicated during a ceremony held Thursday, October 26, 2017. 

The Lounge, named for Elmira College Trustee John M. Walsh, III, honors his wife, former Trustee Martha Pfeifer Pierce, Class of 1963, and the memory of his mother, Celestia Frost Walsh, Class of 1930, and grandmother, Josephine Zimmerman Walsh, Class of 1906.  Walsh, who has a nationally recognized art quilt collection, felt the lounge would be enhanced by the addition of the commissioned work of art.

Robert Morris, chairman of the Board of Trustees, recognized Walsh and Pierce, and thanked Walsh for his support of and dedication to Elmira College.

“Love of art and beauty is manifest today as we look at this magnificent quilt,” said Morris.  “The naming of this lounge and dedication to Jack, and his love of art, his love of this area, speaks for itself. On behalf on the Elmira College community, I thank you for your support, and I thank you for bringing this wonderful gift to the College.”

Walsh spoke of the significance of the quilt and the women in his life it honors.

“When thinking about tonight’s comments, I thought, how do I cover all that they mean to me,” stated Walsh. “I decided to identify three major traits of character, which I identify with them, and which I feel were influenced by their time at Elmira College.  Those traits of character are: the ability rise to any occasion, a curiosity and desire to explore many facets of the world around us, and the sense of adventure and the courage that puts into action that sense of adventure.  Through my years, I have come to associate those three traits with people who have attended Elmira College.”

Walsh continued to reflect upon how his grandmother, mother, and wife each epitomized the three characteristics before concluding with how their strength, resilience, and courage have touched his life.

“I am so grateful to these graduates of Elmira College, for the richness they have brought to my life, and to Elmira College for enriching their lives, and thus enriching mine.”

The artists commissioned to create the quilt, Gayle J. Fraas and Duncan W. Slade, both of Boothbay, Maine, provided a brief over view of the creative process and the significance of the various components of the quilt, titled “Above the Firmament.”

The central image is a painted view of the Chemung River, as seen from the end of the Mark Twain Trail at the Tanglewood Nature Center. Publicly accessible, the trail immerses a visitor in the natural attributes of the geological and biological location in the Southern Tier of the Allegheny Plateau.  The location of the trail end is marked on the quilt with a small red stitched x.

The side and bottom panels map the topographical contours. This is not the contemporary satellite imagery, which now reveals where we are and where we are going, but rather a place defined by pattern and constructed from the elevation increments. It reveals the building of layers and the polishing down with time, an image created from accumulated data just below the “skin” of flora, history, and our own activity. In color and contrast, the included hydrography and roads can appear more akin to aboriginal pictographs or arteries and veins.

The squares of night sky anchor the composition and identify the spring and autumn stars to the west-northwest, the same direction as the central view, marking the academic year.

The artists have been collaborating since the mid-70s, and their work can be found in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Baltimore Museum of Art, Peabody Essex Museum, Museum of Art and Design, International Quilt Study Center at the University of Nebraska, Fidelity Investments, Nuveen, Inc., and Hilton Corporation.