Plenty of people picked up new hobbies during the pandemic to keep themselves busy and sane, including Bobby Hoyt-Norris who taught himself how to sew.

He began making masks to meet the large demand for them at the onset of the shut-down. People saw that he could sew quite well and his friends asked him to make face masks from their luxury Burberry shirts and one friend even asked him to make one from their Gucci bag.

“I was like, this is so silly, but I think I’m enjoying it. It was keeping me sane,” Hoyt-Norris said. “I wanted to give folks something that made them feel special.”

Wanting to take sewing up a notch, he discovered quilt making and was blown away by the possibilities of telling stories through the patterns.

Before Hoyt-Norris knew it, he was creating quilt blocks from fabric he had around his house.

“You take bits and pieces of different fabrics from different places and you put them together and you make something beautiful,” Hoyt-Norris said. “The fabrics themselves tell you the story.”

In fact, Hoyt-Norris made a special quilt piece made from his underwear to tell a deeply personal story.

What most people wouldn’t know from looking at the piece is that he bought that underwear when he was freshly divorced from his children’s mother.

“That was when it was gonna be my hot girl summer,” Hoyt-Norris said. “So, I was being seen in my underwear again for the first time in 17 years.”

He divorced his then wife when he was 41. He is now 44 and married his now husband February 2020.

“(The quilt) really is the story of me feeling my oats a little bit and learning the language of the gay landscape,” he said.

Hoyt-Norris is featuring that piece and another quilt piece in the InterUrban ArtHouse’s fourth annual exhibition, “The Queer Experience,” for local LGBTQ artists to express themselves through visual art, spoken word or performance. The InterUrban ArtHouse is an Overland Park, KS-based nonprofit dedicated to providing an inclusive and affordable place for artists to work and showcase their art.

“It’s important to be able to tell your story, especially people in marginalized communities safely and publicly,” said InterUrban ArtHouse operations manager and curator Wolfe Brack. “That should be normalized.”

The exhibit featuring about 28 local artists will have an opening reception June 18 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the InterUrban ArtHouse, 8001 Newton St, Overland Park, KS and the exhibit will run until July 16. Hours of the exhibit are Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Everyone inside and outside the LGBTQ community is welcome to attend.

Hoyt-Norris’ second piece for the exhibit is a heart-shaped quilt block with different fabrics that make up the colors of the pride flag.

“I would hope people that see my work, understand that you can mutate, you can change your mind and you can become successful or good at anything,” Hoyt-Norris said.

To learn more about the exhibit, visit:

Jazzlyn "Jazzie” is the former senior reporter for our team, who joined the company in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, through the Report for America service program. For the past two years, she covered...

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