From The National Quilt Museum CEO,
Intro: Many of you have noticed that a discussion that ultimately is rooted in the role of museums, art, and quilting has arisen in some circles. I wrote the commentary below January 3, 2020. I’m reprinting because I think the topic is important to everyone that cares about our community.
When you walk in the front doors of The National Quilt Museum, you walk under a sign that says “Honoring Today’s Quilter.” The museum’s mission is to bring the work of today’s quilters to new audiences around the world. The museum is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that represents the artwork of the entire global quilting community without bias.
The quilters that make up our wonderful community represent a wide variety of experiences, perceptions, and techniques. Each one of them, like every artist, is attempting to say something about themselves and their unique human experience through their art.
The museum works on hundreds of projects with thousands of quilters every year. We are currently featuring an exhibit from the Quilts of Valor Foundation honoring the sacrifices of veterans and service members. On January 14, 2020, 19 of these quilts will be given to veterans in the Paducah area. On April 3, 2020, we will host the exhibit “Deeds Not Words: Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage.” This exhibit honors the women that fought for economic, political, and social reforms. We consider it a privilege to host exhibits representing the diverse subjects and topics that are expressed by today’s quilt artists, and we honor each artist’s unique voice.
As we discuss the work of today’s quilter, consider the role that quilting has played historically around the world. No art form does a better job of chronicling our combined stories as humans than quilting has done over the centuries. Quilts have been a reflection of the lives and times people were living for hundreds of years. For centuries, quilts have expressed what is in people’s souls. Wonderful and courageous artists have made quilts addressing every time and place in human history and the struggles of those times including apartheid, poverty, slavery, inequality, and human rights of all kinds. There are quilts that take us to the most memorable moments and places in time including 9/11, D-Day, the Fall of the Berlin Wall, and the 1936 Olympics. One of the largest and most famous quilts in the world is the AIDS Memorial Quilts which addresses the AIDS crisis and subsequent movement. Quilts represent infinite expressions of the human spirit: Joy, Sadness, Happiness, Sorrow, Peace, and Love. Quilts make us feel a spectrum of emotions and take us to endless times, places, and moments.
A few years back, a wonderful woman named Diane came to the museum to share the story of her Great Grandmother, Mary Margaret, quilts. Mary Margaret lived in the mid-1850’s in Missouri. As Diane phrased it, “She lived in a time and place in which women were supposed to be seen and not heard.” Mary Margaret made quilts to express her identity. Diane said that she never felt as free as when she was quilting. Quilting gave Mary Margaret a voice. Thousands of others from that time share similar stories.
As quilters, our community is a rich tapestry of experiences. Let’s be an inclusive community and consider voices different from our own. Let’s embrace our diversity and show the world our humanity. I don’t ask that we all agree, I do ask that we consider with an open mind and we are respectful of every person that chooses to express themselves through quilting.
The National Quilt Museum represents all of today’s quilters. We will never silence an artist’s voice based on content. Diversity in experience and opinion is what makes us all stronger.