Hear the tales told in the Story Quilts made by fiber artist and storyteller Vanessa Johnson.

Griot Vanessa Johnson, fiber artist, activist and storyteller in the West African tradition, will present “Loving Neighbors” beginning at noon, June 11, 2023, at St. James Episcopal Church, Skaneateles, N.Y. Johnson’s story-tell will highlight the dedication and celebration of “Neighbor Love,” St. James’ community quilt. Light refreshments will be served. The event is open to the public. 

The community quilt project was conceived by St. James’ Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission. Planning for the concept and design of the quilt began a year ago when 10 women from St. James gathered in the church conference room to brainstorm the meaning of agape love and how that love is carried out by our congregation. Inspired by Jesus’ command to “Love your neighbor,” the group worked to create a nine-block quilt with images that evoke the many ministries in which the people of St. James are involved.

“When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters; children of God,” said Presiding Bishop Michael Curry during his sermon, ‘The Power of Love,’ at the Royal Wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018. 

“When love is the way, there’s plenty good room— plenty good room—for all of God’s children.

Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well, like we are actually family.”

In addition to story telling, Johnson is a writer, playwright, actor and museum consultant. She served on the Syracuse Juneteenth Committee and coordinated the annual festival at the Southwest Center in Syracuse for three years, creating and directing the “Juneteenth Interactive Museum” for 5 years.

Johnson was the co-coordinator of the New York State Fair Pan African Village for nine years, founding and implementing the “Harambee Youth Tent” which offered free art and cultural experiences for youth and adults. She founded “Syracuse Africa Bound” in 1989, offering youth ages 10-18 travel and cultural exploration in Ghana, West Africa. Johnson was the director of education for the Onondaga Historical Association for four 1/2 years, using her storytelling talents to tell the history of Onondaga County at the museum, schools, and community presentations throughout New York State. 

Currently, Johnson is the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation women’s rights center’s Artist in Residence. As a consultant for the museum, she designed the Underground Railroad Room, and was trained in Dialogue Facilitation for the museum’s Community Dialogue Program on Reproductive Rights (“Who Chooses?”). The most recent exhibition of her work, “Straddling Oceans,” was at the Community Folk Art Gallery in Syracuse, March 20 through May 6.