Throughout the 20th century, women in the small rural village of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, made quilts as labors of love and necessity, eventually attaining economic freedom through their creations. In a manner befitting both their function and the deeply personal context of their creation, the museum is displaying the quilts on the Pope family beds. All five quilts in Hill-Stead’s exhibition, representing four African American artists – Charlotte McKinney of Statham, GA, Qunnie Pettway of Gee’s Bend, AL, Polly Raymond of Gee’s Bend, AL and Hartford, CT’s own Ed Johnetta Miller – are on loan through the generosity of Ed Johnetta Miller, a fiber artist, quilter, teacher, curator and lecturer who is recognized as one of the most creative and colorful improvisational quiltmakers in the U.S. See the quilts on a regular museum tour, or schedule a special group tour by calling 860-677-4787 ext 140. Visit www.hillstead.org for more information.
Ed Johnetta Miller is the recipient of the State of Connecticut’s most prestigious artistic award, The Governor’s Art Award, as well as the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Arts first President’s award, Leadership of Greater Hartford's Arts and Cultural Award, Vision Award for Arts, and Cultural and Capital Community College Heritage Award. She is represented in many museum, corporate and private collections, including The National Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Nelson Mandela National Museum in Cape Town, South Africa, and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, CT . She has also appeared on numerous television shows, including the Modern Masters series on the Home and Garden station, Debbie Allen’s series “Cool Women,” and HGTV’s Simply Quilts. Her woven creations were worn by actress Phylicia Rashad on “The Cosby Show,” and she was featured in The New York Times Sunday Best of the Best series.
“We are thrilled with the community’s response to this exhibition,” commented Hill-Stead’s Director, Dr. Sue Sturtevant, “It has been even better than we imagined. And one of the best aspects of it is that the museum’s architect and founder, Theodate Pope Riddle, would be among the first to champion the Community Threads project and the importance of having these quilts on the beds here. From the project’s celebration of community and teamwork, to the strength and independence of the Gee’s Bend women, to the actual stitchery itself – Theodate ran a small sewing school in her earliest years at Hill-Stead – she would be thrilled that Hill-Stead Museum is a part of this exciting exhibition and all of its components.”
Community Health Services (CHS), is a private, nonprofit, federally qualified health center located in Hartford’s vibrant North End community. Established in 1970, CHS has grown to be the largest community health center in Hartford, responsible for serving the medical needs of 18,000 a year; but they also realize that the health of a community rests in more than clinical diagnosis. To that end, CHS and its Community Threads partners – 23 arts, civic and religious organizations – sponsored this project, the brainchild of Dr. Sedrick Rawlins, a Board member of CHS. “The weaving of these threads helped keep a community together during some very difficult times,” remarked Dr. Rawlins, who first conceived of Community Threads as a way to bring beautiful, hand-made quilts into the medical facility as decoration, then turned it into so much more.
A National Historic Landmark and an Official Project of Save America’s Treasures, Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, CT, is a member of CT’s Historic Gardens and a stop on the Connecticut Art Trail (www.arttrail.org), a partnership of fifteen world-class museums and historic sites across the state. The museum’s period rooms are open for tours Tuesday through Sunday, 11 am – 3 pm, November - April, and 10 am – 4 pm May - October. The last tour of the day begins one hour before closing. Grounds are open to the public daily 7:30 am-5:30 pm. For tour and program information, browse www.hillstead.org or call 860.677.4787.
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