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Artist, Town Workers Stitching Together Memorial Quilt Preservation Effort

When local artist and quilter Stefanie Lagana arrived at Newtown Municipal Center one recent afternoon to begin planning for an exhibit of her own handiwork, she became immediately concerned seeing several of the memorial quilts that were delivered to Newtown in the wake of 12/14 billowing and buckling.

“There were others that were falling off the walls because they had been suspended using incorrect hardware,” she told The Bee. “But unless you work with quilting displays, you probably wouldn’t know there is an optimal way to display them that also preserves them properly.”

So the Sandy Hook resident headed into the first selectman’s office and immediately ran into Human Resources Administrator Carole Ross, who has overseen the intake and display of most of the thousands of tribute and memorial materials that have flowed into town since the Sandy Hook tragedy.

“She came into my office and told me something had to be done immediately to preserve these beautiful quilts, and she said she would handle it,” Ms Ross recalled. “So I said go for it.”

A few days later Ms Lagana showed up and teamed up with town workers Peter D’Accolti and Kevin Belden to carefully attach structural framing and proper hanging hardware to the quilts that Ms Ross and town officials wanted to keep on public display at the municipal center. And within a few hours, most of the preservation effort was complete.

“I went in there to look at the space for my quilt show, saw the quilts and thought I had to do something right away,” she said. “If you know about displaying quilts, they are somewhat unusual. The ones Newtown received were not framed and hung like paintings, but they needed to be.”

Since Ms Lagana was going to be using similar materials to prepare her own quilts for display, she just picked up some additional supplies and went to work with Mr D’accolti and Mr Belden to prepare the memorial quilts in the same fashion.

“It just took one afternoon to do most of the town’s quilts, and I may be returning to do a few more that are in storage,” she said. “But I also taught the maintenance workers how to do it.”

Ms Lagana is a former New York advertising art director for Ogilvy & Mather Direct and Sachi & Sachi Direct. She took up the fiber arts at Studio Art Centers International, Florence, Italy, in the summer of 1987, beginning with weaving and advancing into quilting about a decade later.

Since then she has created many quilts for exhibit, and is in the process of completing a series of Newtown quilts portraying town landmarks.

“I also do a lot of appliqué quilts — beach scenes, fairy tale characters, and photo quilts,” she explained. “Almost every project I take on is more challenging than the one before it by design, to help me get a little better each time.”

Among the other subjects Ms Lagana tackles in her creative pursuit are quilts containing character-building messages. Many of those projects are done voluntarily in cooperation with students and individuals through nonprofit or human services agencies.

“Another recent project I did was for my son who just graduated high school,” she said. “I had saved a lot of the T-shirts and jerseys from his childhood camping, school and sports teams. So I stitched them all together. Now he has his entire childhood life all represented in one king-size quilt.”

When she is not stitching quilts, Ms Lagana enjoys cooking and piecing together a fine meal. She also works as a life and job coach mentoring disabled clients through Transitional Employment Unlimited.

She has been recognized and honored for Individual Achievement by Cambridge’s Who’s Who Among Executive and Professional Women in April 2010. Ms Lagana is an ICF Associate Certified Coach of the International Coaching Federation and served on the board as marketing chair for the Connecticut Chapter.

Her work is displayed in schools across Fairfield County and she continues to produce commissioned quilts for private clients through her own consulting enterprise, Acolorsplash Designs. Anyone interested in contacting Ms Lagana to discuss quilting projects, commissions, or to inquire about life or career coaching can reach her via e-mail at acolorsplash@aol.com.

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