Q is for Quilting

| May 4, 2014

In thinking about community-based art, or art that is socially engaged, I began thinking about art that is mostly just social. In the mid-19th century, and of course beyond then, women, in particular, would participate in quilting bees. Quilting bees provided women with a space to catch up, gossip, and simply spend time together while, at the same time, creating their works of art. Not only were the quilts artistic (and sometimes sold for money), but they were also practical as a source of warmth.

However, even in this case, the purely social was transformed into something greater and more socially-engaged. Quilting bees began to form specifically around particular topics and movements. For example, The Freedom Quilting Bee Cooperative was formed by 150 Black women from Alabama in 1965, as a way to begin to recover from expenses brought by participating in the Civil Rights Movement.

The tradition of quilting continues on, whether it’s an individual project or more social in nature. There’s even a Modern Quilt Guild, whose mission is “to support and encourage the growth and development of modern quilting through art, education, and community.” Even in this sphere, which once grew from both necessity and a social aspect, there are intersections between art and education.