29 October 2009

Brand new work: Elephant, Botswana



“Elephant” was inspired by a photo of a bull elephant,  captured on film by Chuck Babbitt, in the Savuti Camp, Botswana (used with his permission).  Chuck has generously shared his work with me and allowed me to visit beautiful & exotic locations through his photography.

This quilt will be traveling along with Fiber Revolution to an exhibition in Gaborone, Botswana.  This is the second time the artists from Fiber Rev have teamed up with Kalahari Quilts and the Botswanacraft Gallery.







photo_elephantDetailSee the original inspiration for this quilt, and other
examples of Chuck Babbitt's photos here:
Babbitt Photography

28 October 2009

Seventh & Final in the Yale/Af-Am series: Friendship



The final installment of the 7-quilt Yale Af-Am project is “Friendship & Support”.  This piece illustrates the different fraternities & sororities in the House, professional/career guidance such as Black Graduate Network (BGN), and support organizations like Prism and Students of Mixed Heritage and Culture.









27 October 2009

Quilt 6: Community


The second is “Community”, representing the House’s dedication to social issues, inside and outside the University campus.  Some of these resident groups include Visions of Virtue, Black Church at Yale and Campus against Racial Violence.



25 October 2009

Quilt 5: The Arts

Arts These next three compositions celebrate the different resident groups that have a home at the Afro-American Cultural Center.  The first one is entitled “The Arts”, representing creative pursuits: music, dance, choir and literature. 

Some of the groups represented here are The Yale Gospel Choir, Heritage Theatre Ensemble, Sphere Magazine and Nzinga Dancers.



22 October 2009

Quilt 4: Anniversary


The fourth chronological quilt represents only the year 2009, marking the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the House.

(see image, upper left)

A quote by Kurt Schmoke (class of 1971) in the upper section reads “You are older than we are, and more experienced.  We want guidance from you, moral leadership.  On behalf of my fellow students, I beg you to give it to us.”  Kurt said these words to school administrators nearly 30 years ago, but students today want the same things from their role models.



You may notice a lot of “empty” space in this quilt.  This was intentionally done in order to offer a special opportunity to alumni.  The blank areas are quilted using a coordinating colored thread.  Organizers of the event asked me if there was a way for students and alumni to be part of the timeline in some way.  We worked out an idea for people to sign the last quilt with permanent marking pens.  During Alumni Weekend, students and alumni will sign the quilt and write personal messages or quotes right onto the fabric.


quilt4detailfaceIt’s definitely a first for me, to encouraging people to take a Sharpie marker to my artwork!  But in the end it will be a keepsake for the House and a nice way to mark this special anniversary.  Hopefully I will be able to get a photo of this panel after it has been signed.


The left sections list House Directors, and the phrase “Beneficiaries to Benefactors”.   Graduates are encouraged to give back to the community and to upcoming students. 

(Detail image: close up on one of the graduates)




(Detail image, lower left:  Two African masks, the de facto House Logo.  This image, drawn here with quilt stitching, is prevalent on the House’s website and on many event programs, flyers, etc.).



20 October 2009

Quilt #3 - “A Larger Community”


Third installment, Quilt 3: “Forming a Larger Community”

This period in AFAM's history was marked by the increasing opposition to Apartheid and a new focus on artistic expression. The largest square depicts the South African flag using silhouettes of people marching in protest.  During this time the House was experiencing a period of increased Social Awareness, Global Identity, Empowerment and inclusion of different ethnicities within the resident groups.  Other important traditions were started during this time as well, such as the Ogilvie, Robinson, DeChabert Leadership Forum – named for 3 of the 4 original founders of the House and Cabaret Weekend – AFAM’s collaboration with Yale’s School of Drama, playwright August Wilson and Director Lloyd Richards.

Next up: the 4th panel in the chronological timeline (Anniversary/ Celebration of Students and Alumni)

19 October 2009

Timeline- Quilt #2 “Founding”

Here is the 2nd installment of the AfAm timeline. It's called "Founding", and represents roughly the 1960’s and 70’s.  Technically, AFAM was founded in 1969 at another location but moved to 211 Park Street (shown here) a year later. But this is the address that everyone associates with the House.  2Founding_blogOver the years students and alumni have grown to love the place, working hard to raise funds to renovate it, restoring the facade and improving the interior facilities.  So I could not have created a panel for this time period without a portrait of the House as its main feature.

Other important events during this time were: the establishment of the Black Church at Yale (BCAY), and the Black Student Alliance at Yale (BSAY), as well as the creation of an African American Studies degree program, the first one of its kind in the Ivy League.



…Not to complain but it's not easy to create a building out of fabric!!!  That was a first for me.  A detail of the building is shown below.

In 1964, Yale admitted fourteen African American students into its degree programs, a record number at the time.  Quilted within the house’s roof walls are the names of these men from the class of 1968, as well as upperclassmen Craig Foster ‘69 and Glenn DeChabert ‘70 (who along with Armstead Robinson ‘68 and Donald Ogilvie ‘68 are considered the House Founders). 

2Foundingdetail_blogI stitched them into the architecture of this fabric House because they provided the foundation for the Black Student Alliance at Yale and the Afro American Cultural Center.


Stay tuned… next up is Quilt 3: A Larger Community

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”.

13 October 2009


I took my mom over to the Leever Atrium during off hours, just to give her a look at the Fiber Snapshots exhibit.  It’s a very nice room although a little spooky with no people walking through.  But the lonely environment was great for taking pictures.  :-)


(upper left) 

My mom walking through the exhibition. 








(lower left)

Here’s the long view of the Atrium Gallery.  The wall on the left is slightly curved, so it’s hard to see the artwork in this shot.  Over on the right are stairs to the Fine Arts Center, as well as wall-length windows for natural, indirect light.  Back toward the far wall you’ll see chairs & a podium.  That’s where we’ll have the gallery talk.

If you are not on the mailing list for a postcard, here are the details:

NVCC/ Ruth Leever Atrium Gallery will host Kate Themel for a Gallery Talk about her quilted artwork on  November 19th from 11:00am – 1:30pm followed by a light reception and refreshments.

For directions to NVCC (Waterbury Campus), visit