By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jun 02, 2021 at 5:25 PM

Last March, Milwaukee fiber artist Rosy Petri was forced to end her artist-in-residency at the Pfister Hotel two months early because of COVID-19. At the time, she had no idea what was next for her.

“It was really disappointing,” says Petri. “But actually since then I've been swamped with surprise opportunities.”

Since November of 2020, Petri received a prestigious Mary L. Nohl fellowship; an invitation to participate in the Dreams to Reality Fund program sponsored by IFundWomen and Caress; and most recently, a one-month artist in residency for the bell hooks center at Berea College in Louisville, KY.

As a child growing up in Racine, Petri was surrounded by her grandmother’s quilts and deeply inspired by them personally and professionally. Today she describes herself as “a self-taught artist sewing stories through quilting" who creates vibrant fabric portraits of famous as well as everyday women of color using African wax prints, batik and vintage fabrics. 

"My work depicts cultural icons and ordinary people because I believe in bearing witness and publicly celebrating everyday saints,” say Petri.

Today, Petri launched a crowd sourcing campaign called "Art is Culture: Sewing Stories with Rosy Petri" through the IFundWomen platform. The goal is to raise $25,000 to upgrade from her secondhand sewing machine to a professional longer quilting machine.

“Now in my third year as a full-time fiber artist, my works are being shown in galleries, museums and other places across the country. Being able to participate in these shows means sharing culture and story with larger audiences. It also means I have to work on a larger scale,” says Petri.

Her creative work not only takes an incredible amount of talent and skill, but also a high level of emotional tolerance. Petri often interviews women for hours before stitching their stories and much of the time, their stories are those of struggle.

“The portraits I create become part of the people's history by providing visible record of diasporan lives and legacy,” Petri says.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.