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18 October 2009

New Work: Fiber Art Timeline

Alumni Weekend at Yale is a busy one – especially at 211 Park Street.  The Afro American Cultural Center is celebrating the 40th Anniversary of its founding.  Events for students and alumni include speeches, table discussions, movie screenings, performances by singing and dancing troupes… as well as an exhibition of 7 art quilts by yours truly.

I was so proud to be able to work on this project.  It taught me a lot about the history of Connecticut and Yale University and gave me an insight into the incredible contributions of African American students in the Ivy League school.  The Afro American Cultural Center is more than a building.  The students, faculty and alumni call it “The House” and it is more like a home than an institution.  This building has represented at different times in history, a sanctuary for students who sometimes feel ostracized, a friendly gathering place for holiday parties and performance art, a safe environment for students to relax and be themselves, and a center for social and political action.

Of course the history of Black Life at Yale cannot be illustrated in just 7 panels.  But students David Lindsey, Chelsea Allen and Diana Ofosu provided me with an extensive amount of factual information, and worked with me to highlight key events.  I cannot thank them enough for all their help.  Assistant Dean Pamela George, Director of the Af-Am Cultural Center, hired me to create this fabric timeline and gave me complete artistic freedom to work on it.  I was honored that Dean George saw my work and invited me to play a small role in the House’s Anniversary celebration.

Quilt1_prehistory_blogIt is my sincere hope that each student and alumnus viewing these quilts will see a bit of themselves in the artwork.  Whatever their graduation year, I hope they will find inspiration, pride and fond memories within these fabric images.

I’m excited that I can now share photos of the 7 piece collection.  Quilt 1, entitled “Pre-History: Opening of the Gates”, represents the first Black students to attend Yale.  This was long before the establishment of the Afro American Cultural Center, but a timeline of the House cannot overlook the contributions of these individual pioneers.   For example: 1834-1839 James Pennington (left side of quilt, middle) was not allowed to officially enroll at Yale, but he audited classes and went on to become a minister and successful author.  1874 Edward Bouchet (top left corner) enrolled & graduated with a degree in Physics, then continued on to become the first African American to earn a PhD.   This piece includes quotes & dates, and stitched into the quilting are words that reflect the attributes of these men (Achievement, integrity, hero, courage, vision) etc.  014

Diana mentioned she walks through these very gates going to campus every day (detail left).  It’s amazing to think that the first African American students walked through the same gates over a century ago.  

 

Check back soon to see the next quilt in the House’s timeline: “Founding: 211 Park Street”.

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