We Are the Story
September 10, 2020 – June 12, 2021
A multi-site initiative of quilt exhibitions curated by Carolyn Mazloomi, and presented by Textile Center & Women of Color Quilters Network
Group and solo exhibitions build upon symbols of liberation, resistance and empowerment, offering a visually compelling account of the breadth of experiences and struggles that comprise Black history in an honest and critical way
When Minneapolis became the epicenter of the nationwide protest movement against police brutality and racism in America following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, Textile Center and Women of Color Quilters Network (WCQN) joined forces to create We Are the Story, a multi-venue initiative in the Twin Cities, September 10, 2020, through June 12, 2021. We Are the Story is under the curatorial direction of Carolyn Mazloomi, WCQN founder and member of Textile Center’s National Artist Advisory Council.
Two juried exhibitions – Gone but Never Forgotten: Remembering Those Lost to Police Brutality and Racism: In the Face of Hate We Resist – serve as a centerpiece for We Are the Story. Given the urgency of these issues in America, quilters from around the nation worked under an extremely tight creative timeline. The calls were open in mid-June to all artists regardless of age, color, national origin, citizenship status, race, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity in mid-June, and 423 quilts were submitted by the July 31 deadline. Mazloomi selected 89 quilts for the two exhibitions.
Find details on all exhibitions, both juried and solo, below.
A series of Zoom talks, including We Are the Story: Let’s Talk about Race presented by Textile Center, WCQN and Friends, will be announced soon. These Zoom presentations will focus on issues of police brutality, racism, and inequities in America in support of Black Lives Matter, as well as introduce the more than 100 quilters featured in these exhibitions. The Zoom talks will be open to the public.
WE ARE THE STORY CALENDAR OF SCHEDULED EXHIBITIONS
All seven exhibitions will also be presented virtually on the websites of Textile Center & WCQN. All exhibitions will be free and open to the public, but appointments may be required at venues due to the COVID pandemic.
American Swedish Institute, Osher Gallery
September 10 – November 1, 2020
We Who Believe in Freedom was first presented in 2016 to honor the 55th anniversary of the Freedom Riders, and it represents works by members of WCQN that tell the story of the African American Experience. This exhibition is free to the public — click here to get your free ticket to visit this exhibition. Select “We Are the Story: Quilt Exhibition”
Textile Center, Joan Mondale Gallery
September 15 – December 24, 2020
Gone but Never Forgotten: Remembering Those Lost to Police Brutality is a national juried exhibition showcasing 26 quilts that honor those whose lives were violently ended due to police negligence and brutality and critiques the targeting and criminalization of Black bodies throughout history.
Textile Center, Community Gallery
September 29 – December 24, 2020
Dorothy Burge, a member of WCQN, is a multimedia artist and community activist who is inspired by both historic and current social justice issues. She is one of the strongest voices in Chicago for police accountability and reparations for survivors of police torture. Dorothy will be a featured guest in our Zoom Let’s Talk About Race conversations.
Weisman Art Museum
October 15 – March 14, 2021
From artist Penny Mateer: “The Protest Series grew out of my love of protest music released in the 1960s and 70s – music that inspired people to think, question, and take action. After we entered into war with Iraq, I began to think about what have we learned as a country since Vietnam. Does history repeat itself? Do we need to revisit it? Over time, I’ve expanded into economic and social justice issues. I choose a popular traditional quilt block and pair it with a topic. I challenge myself to find commercial fabric relative to that topic in order to create a roadmap of symbols that prompt the viewer to think about the theme of the work.”
Freedom Rising: I Am the Story (Quilts by L’Merchie Frazier, Boston, MA)
Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia)
November 21, 2020 – September 19, 2021
L’Merchie Frazier, a public fiber artist, quilter, historian, innovator, poet and holographer, has served the artistic community for more than 25 years nationally and internationally with visual and performance art residencies in Boston, Brazil, Taiwan, Costa Rica, Africa, France, and Cuba. A public lecturer and community workshop presenter, her spatial and social justice artistic work activates youth and adults in a co-design model that reflects the participants as creative actors and their occupancy in democratizing the socio-economic political landscape.
Textile Center, Community Gallery
January 11 – March 15, 2021
From artist Sylvia Hernandez: “I create story quilts to continue to pass the story on to others. These quilts are created in my heart and soul before I make them visible. There are so many hateful, hurtful, and heartbreaking things happening in the world that I feel a need to make pieces that might show them in a beautiful, heartfelt way to take some of the ugliness away for a minute. I pray for a time that I might make only happy quilts.”
Textile Center, Joan Mondale Gallery, Mary Giles Gallery, Community Gallery
March 26 – June 12, 2021
An international juried exhibition featuring 63 quilts, Racism: In the Face of Hate We Resist builds on these narratives by sharing the stories of resistance and fortitude that have been integral to the survival of Black people in America. During this time, quilts from the other We Are the Story exhibitions are intended to be exhibited at venues to be determined as part of a community-wide outreach initiative, providing an opportunity for our community to have one last comprehensive viewing as our community observes the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death.
Select quilts will also be presented with community partners later this winter and spring including the Division of Indian Work in South Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota’s Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center in North Minneapolis, Homewood Studios in North Minneapolis, Studio 106 in Burnsville, and St. Catherine University’s Apparel, Merchandising and Design Gallery.
WE ARE THE STORY EVENTS
Mark your calendars: the first We Are the Story: Let’s Talk About Race conversation will take place on Zoom Tuesday, November 17, 2020, at 2 pm (CST). This first conversation, I Wish I Knew How it Feels to be Free – A Conversation with Carolyn Mazloomi and Dorothy Burge, is free and open to the public. RSVP here!
We Are the Story Zoom Discussion with Quilt Alliance: On Wednesday, Sept 30, 2020 at 2 pm (ET), Textile Center Executive Director Karl Reichert and curator Carolyn Mazloomi joined the Quilt Alliance for a panel discussion, moderated by artist Michelle Flamer. View a recording of the session on YouTube here!
ABOUT THE WOMEN OF COLOR QUILTERS NETWORK (WCQN)
For African American women quilts have always been at the core of artistic expression, taking form in the social, economic, and spiritual lives of the women who make them. Founded by Carolyn Mazloomi in 1985, WCQN is a non-profit national organization whose mission is to educate, preserve, exhibit, promote and document quilts made by African Americans. WCQN showcases the work of its members through critically acclaimed traveling exhibitions that tour museums throughout the United States, including the Smithsonian. WCQN has exhibited quilts in Japan, England, South African, Italy and Australia as part of art programs sponsored by the United States Department of State. For more information, visit: wcqn.org.
ABOUT CAROLYN MAZLOOMI
Historian, curator, author, lecturer, artist, mentor, founder, and facilitator — the remarkable and tireless Carolyn Mazloomi has left her mark on many lives. Trained as an aerospace engineer, she turned her sites and tireless efforts in the 1980s to bring the many unrecognized contributions of African American quilt artists to the attention of the American people as well as the international art communities. From the founding of the African-American Quilt Guild of Los Angles in 1981 to the 1985 founding of the WCQN, Carolyn has been at the forefront of educating the public about the diversity of interpretation, styles and techniques among African American quilters as well as educating a younger generation of African Americans about their own history through the quilts the WCQN members create.
A major force as an artist in her own right, Carolyn’s quilts can be found in private collections around the world as well in distinguished museum collections in the United States. To date she has published 12 books highlighting African American-made quilts. Her artistic work, as well as her defense of solid research, has disrupted long-standing myths about African American quilts, myths much debated among quilt historians and quilters alike, and thus moved the conversation about African American quilt history forward to more a solid academic footing. For more information, visit: carolynmazloomi.com.
ABOUT DOROTHY BURGE
Dorothy Burge, a member of WCQN, is a multimedia artist and community activist who is inspired by both historic and current social justice issues. She is one of the strongest voices in Chicago for police accountability and reparations for survivors of police torture. She amplifies the voices of survivors of police torture and of activists in the movement and was instrumental in designing curriculum for Chicago Public Schools to expose students to the problem of police violence. As part of a collective leadership model, she and others successfully advocated for the grandchildren of torture survivors to be recipients of free tuition at Chicago community colleges in addition to meticulously working out the forms of redress in the reparations package.
ABOUT L’MERCHIE FRAZIER
L’Merchie Frazier, a public fiber artist, quilter, historian, innovator, poet and holographer, has served the artistic community for more than 25 years nationally and internationally with visual and performance art residencies in Boston, Brazil, Taiwan, Costa Rica, Africa, France, and Cuba. A public lecturer and community workshop presenter, her spatial and social justice artistic work activates youth and adults in a co-design model that reflects the participants as creative actors and their occupancy in democratizing the socio-economic political landscape. L’Merchie is a quilting member of WCQN. Currently she is Director of Creative Engagement of Transformative Action Project/Violence Transformed for the Public Health Advocacy Institute initiative at Northeastern University.
ABOUT SYLVIA HERNANDEZ
Sylvia Hernandez is a celebrated and self-taught master quilter, and she creates timeless, handcrafted works that address community and human right issues. Sylvia is currently the president of the Quilters of Color Network of NYC, co-president of the Brooklyn Quilters Guild, and she is a member of the WCQN. She teaches at El Puente Academy of Peace and Justice, MS 50 and has worked with AgitArte, a social justice group that has led community educational and art programs in marginalized communities in Puerto Rico and locally. She works out of her home studio in Brooklyn, NY, where she currently resides with her husband Miguel.
ABOUT PENNY MATEER
Penny Mateer, artist/activist, works with textiles and recycled materials. Her art is rooted in quilting and embroidery, traditionally thought of as “women’s work.” Drawing from this rich history of creating functional objects intended to provide warmth and comfort, she chooses fabric as her primary material to establish connection through shared experience and spark discussion around current events. Her social practice centers on a community-made public art project to promote voting. Mateer lives in Pittsburgh, PA. For more information, visit: pennymateer.com.
ABOUT TEXTILE CENTER
Textile Center is unique as America’s national center for fiber art, with a mission to honor textile traditions, promote excellence and innovation, and inspire widespread participation in fiber arts. The Center’s resources include exceptional fiber art exhibitions, an artisan shop, a professional-grade dye lab, a natural dye plant garden, and one of the nation’s largest circulating textile libraries open to the public. Textile Center produces more than 200 classes a year for all ages and skill levels through its youth, adult, older adult, and outreach programs. A dynamic hub of fiber activity for 25 years, Textile Center brings people together in community to learn, create, share, and be inspired by fiber art. textilecentermn.org.
- Resurgence & Ecologist: “Quilt-making for Social Justice“
- MPR Art Hounds: “Art Hounds: A quilt exhibition memorializes people lost to police violence“
- Start Tribune: “Minneapolis quilting shows offer ‘a soft place to land’ on a hard topic – racism“
- MinnPost: “Minnesota Orchestra moves fall concerts to TV, radio and streaming; TPT presents ‘Hippocrates Café’“
- Pioneer Press: “Twin Cities quilt exhibits look at racism and police brutality“
- Jazz 88.FM: “Textile Center starts new series ‘We Are the Story’“
- The Art Newspaper: “‘I want people to know how it feels’: quilt exhibitions will explore police brutality and racism“