Shows and Exhibits, WCQN

Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West show opening weekend, Part III

Here is the final installment in my series of posts about opening weekend of the Women of Color Quilting Network (WCQN) show Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West at the James Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida where my quilt Langston Hughes, Pioneer Poet was showing.

If you are just joining us, here are the two previous related posts:

Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West show opening weekend, Part I 

Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West show opening weekend, Part II 

Before I share more about the show’s opening weekend, here is a little about my time in St. Petersburg, Florida.

WANDERING AROUND ST. PETERSBURG

I’ve been to several cities in Florida in the past, but I do not remember ever visiting St. Petersburg, so let’s call it my first visit to St. Petersburg, FL. The James Museum is located in downtown St. Petersburg and although my partner John and I had a rental car, we primarily explored the downtown area where our hotel was also located.

One day between opening weekend events, we walked down to the pier area and ran into some very friendly pelicans hoping for us to feed them (which we didn’t – we listened to the posted sign!)

One of the pelicans was following me around and after a while appeared annoyed that I hadn’t fed her/him yet!

There was all sorts of interesting birds wandering around downtown St. Petersburg, here are some curious birds we ran into at a public park:

They were sort of flamingo like but I am not sure if they are in the same family. If you know what they are, let me know!

And of course I had to take some Black & White photos while wandering downtown St. Petersburg, here is my favorite of the photos I took (the rest were “nothing to write home about” so I will spare you a B&W photo essay of downtown St. Petersburg):

John and I had lunch one day and a fun restaurant, Oak and Stone, that featured a self-sampling craft beer area where you got a wrist band that you scanned and selected whatever sampler craft beers you wanted (though they did have a limit of how many samples you could buy during one visit!). Each tap had information about the craft brew selection.

We had a lot of fun sampling beers!

John and I discovered that St. Petersburg has an unusually large number of museums for its size of city – 31! We joked that since there is a lot of wealth in St. Petersburg, “everyone and their brother” wanted to have their own museum!

And now we’ll return to the show’s opening weekend.

BLACK PIONEERS SHOW OPENING WEEKEND CONTINUED

On Sunday September 11, 2022 the museum held a brunch for the artists and the show’s sponsors. After the brunch there was a panel presentation with the show’s curator Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi and 6 of the artists discussing the topic “In Search of Freedom: The Black Presence in the West”.

Each artist discussed their piece in depth and responded to Dr. Mazloomi’s discussion questions about the topic. It was an amazing panel presentation by amazing women. The women in the panel are educators, college professors, a civil rights attorney, historians, and professional artists. Dr. Mazloomi is a retired aerospace engineer and she was not the only PhD level educated artist in the room.

Some of the members of the WCQN have art quilts permanently installed at the Smithsonian Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.

I cannot begin to put in to words how it felt to interact with this entire group of talented and brilliant women that are part of WCQN during the Black Pioneers show’s opening weekend. Here is the group photo I shared in the previous post about the show opening:

image credit: James Museum facebook page

How lucky I felt to stand among this group of women! I had so many engaging conversations with the other artists during the show’s opening weekend and there are rumors that in the future we might have WCQN artist retreats and I cannot wait to be in their presence again!

If you’d like to read about how I first got involved with the WCQN, this post tells the story – Creative Inspiration: Stories My Father Told Me (re-post). Thank you Universe for letting me run across that magazine that led me to reaching out to Dr. Mazloomi while browsing at Barnes & Nobles in 2016!

I will close this series of posts with this recent interview of Dr. Mazloomi, a National Heritage Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts (highest award given in the U.S. to an artist), that played on a loop on one of the museum’s walls during the exhibit. I think it is worth a listen.

We as African Americans have participated in the making of this country since we stepped off the boat. African Americans have been explorers, they’ve been business people, they were cowboys, they’ve been part of the fabric of every facet of this country and people will see that the quilts…Quilts have jumped off the bed onto the wall and they are now seen as works of art…these are not the quilts that your grandmother made, they are truly seen as works of art…with the use of cloth we tell the stories not only of our cultures but the making of America…

Carolyn Mazloomi
Shows and Exhibits, WCQN

Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West show opening weekend, Part II

When I finally sit down in front of my laptop and open my blog (after a hiatus) the decision is: do I catch up on my blogging buddies posts first or do I write a new post. I am just going to go ahead and write a new post otherwise I will get distracted again (smile).

Here goes Part II, continuing the story I started in the post Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West show opening weekend, Part I, about the opening weekend of the Women of Color Quilting Network show Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West at the James Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida where my quilt Langston Hughes, Pioneer Poet was showing.

At opening on Friday Sept 9, 2022

Friday September 9th was the opening reception, and on Saturday September 10 there was a “Meet the Artists” event allowing show attendees to chat with and ask the artists questions.

For the “Meet the Artist” event, the museum lined up chairs by each piece so the artist could take a break and sit down during the 2+ hours talking to the public and signing books.

I talked to a lot of people about my quilt. I was especially touched by a mother and daughter duo who told me that my piece was the reason why they came to the show. As I shared in the post Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West (upcoming exhibit)., my piece was used in the advertisement for the show. See more about the advertisement for the show at the end of this post.

I also had a wonderful conversation with young lady who asked me about how I became an artist. I think she was a preteen. I could tell she was a budding artist and in addition to answering her questions, I had her share her own artist journey to date. She had me sign her book and then brought her sisters by to have me sign their books also.

In addition to chatting with show attendees, I had fun chatting with my fellow artists in our little “pod” in the corner of the exhibit. Here they are hanging out or signing books for show attendees (we signed a lot of books!):

Wow there was some tremendous talent at the show. Here are some of my favorite pieces that I viewed at the show.

Artist: Carolyn Crump

I always “fan girl out” when I see Carolyn’s work. It is otherworldly!

Artist: Dorothy Burge

Dorothy Burge spoke at the Artist Panel during the Artist Brunch on Sunday and shared in detail the story of the amazing woman featured in her piece. I love how the quilt is only the figure of Mary Fields with no additional background.

Artist: Viola Burley Leak

The above 5 quilts were breathtaking in person, the photos do not them justice. The Watts Riot piece was huge and the colors were so vivid and powerful in person, a real masterpiece! I got to chat with the artist and she shared some of the daunting challenges of creating this piece.

Here is a little gallery below of more amazing art quilts at the show depicting the lives of Black Pioneers in the American West:

If you’d like to see all the quilts and read their full Artist Statement, the exhibit catalogue is available for Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West by contacting the gift shop at the James Museum at (727) 892-4200.

It was such an amazing show. Here is a photo taken by the James Museum’s photographer and posted on the museum’s facebook page of the entire group of artists that attended:

image credit: James Museum facebook page

Postscript

I mentioned earlier in this post that my quilt Langston Hughes, Pioneer Poet was used as advertisement for the show originally (eventually they added other quilts to the advertisement or replaced my quilt).

image credit – The James Museum
image credit – James Museum facebook page

As a result my quilt was featured in press/media about the show. Below are a couple examples:

The Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) Exhibitions webpage:

image credit: SAQA website

The Visit St. Pete (St. Petersburg)/Clearwater visitor website:

image credit – visit st pete clearwater website

WUSF Public Media (St. Petersburg area NPR station):

image credit – WUSF website

Local Today/Oklahoma News:

The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter:

I accidentally found most of these when I was googling the show; and my friend Wendy sent me the SAQA one.

Here is a local television news story about the exhibit before the show officially opened:

You get a brief glimpse of my quilt for a moment. I saw this clip before I attended the show opening and got to see my quilt had a freestanding wall all to itself!

Shows and Exhibits, WCQN

Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West show opening weekend, Part I

Last Friday, John and I headed to St. Petersburg Florida for the opening weekend of the show Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West at the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art.

The museum is really gorgeous inside (the Executive Director told us it cost 65 million to build and 5 million a year to maintain…) and filled with some amazing Western themed art, especially a lot of Native American themed art:

When we first arrived to the opening night reception on Friday, our first stop was the museum gift shop to pick up extra copies of the exhibit catalogue (they gave each artist a complimentary copy):

And we plopped ourselves down at the museum’s cafe/bar area with our complimentary adult beverage and thumbed through the catalogue to find my piece!

Yes, I won’t lie, it was pretty exciting!

After getting snacks at the cocktail reception, before we headed upstairs to the exhibit I stopped to pose with the exhibit poster sign:

Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, the show’s curator and the founder of the Women of Color Quilting Network (WCQN) spoke at in the main hall stage at the museum during the reception and had all the artists come up on stage with her after her presentation:

Then it was time to go upstairs and see the exhibit! You’ll never guess what I did first – yes, find my piece on the wall and start taking photos:

Note: The museum placard for my piece is an abbreviated version of my full artist statement. If you’d like to read the entire artist statement, see the post Update on the Langston Hughes, Pioneer Poet Quilt.

I also had Dr. Mazloomi sign my exhibit catalogue and took a photo with her:

I am so honored that she responded to my inquiry years ago about WCQN. I am so proud to be a member! So far I’ve been in two other shows: Visioning Human Rights in the New Millennium (see post Visioning Human Rights in the New Millennium, Part IV), and Yours for Race and Country: Reflections on the Life of Colonel Charles Young (see post Secret Quilt Revealed, Part II: Yours for Race and Country).

This is the second show opening I attended, I did not attend the one for Yours for Race and Country: Reflections on the Life of Colonel Charles Young as my husband had recently died and although I was so honored to be in the show I was not emotionally ready to attend events like that. I am so happy I got to attend the opening for Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West, and it was awesome to have my partner John there with me (and he acted as my photographer when I was in group shots or busy talking to show visitors.

I am going to close Part I of this series of posts about the show with a less than a minute walk through video of the show on Instagram and a longer version (over 3 minutes) on YouTube that John took. More to come in future posts in this series to include some close up images of several of the amazing quilts in the show!

I accidentally deleted the minute long video I took landscape perspective after I loaded it to Instagram (and I even figured out how to set it to music), so darn it I could not load it on to YouTube!

Special Events, WCQN

Update on the Langston Hughes, Pioneer Poet Quilt

This is a follow up to my November 2021 post Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West (upcoming exhibit).

The Women of Color Quilting Network (WCQN) show at the The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art does not open until September 2022 but the museum had a recent fundraising event for the exhibition and Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi the head of the WCQN attended and took photos.

Included in the photos she shared on her Facebook page was an image of my quilt Langston Hughes, Pioneer Poet.

image credit: Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi

Since the quilt has officially been shown to the public, plus it is the featured quilt on the museum’s website advertisement for the show (see thejamesmuseum.org/special-exhibitions/, and scroll down to “Upcoming”), I figure I can share a full image of the quilt and my Artist Statement:

LANGSTON HUGHES, PIONEER POET

 This quilt is part of the Women of Color Quilting Network’s Traveling Show – “Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West”

52″ W x 52″ L cotton, cotton flannel, image transfer fabric

THE STORY OF THIS PIECE:

Decades before the political rhetoric of “Make America Great Again”, American poet, novelist, activist and playwright Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967) challenged us to “Let America Be America Again” in his poem named the same .

Langston Hughes was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s (Smithsonian.com) and his writings focused on the African American experience. He wrote the poem that inspired this quilt, Let America Be America Again, in 1935. It was first published by Esquire magazine in 1936 (classicesquire.com). Langston Hughes has a special significance to my family: he is the namesake of the first grandchild born into our family, Langston, named after his late grandmother Gina’s favorite poet.

This quilt shares the opening four lines of the poem’s first stanza which challenges “let America be the dream it used to be (for)…the pioneer”. These four lines are followed by a powerful statement in parenthesis: “(America was never America to me)”, summarizing the plight of African Americans historically not having access to the “American American .  The entire poem is powerful and worth a full reading (poem resource: Poets.org).

Using a B&W public archive image from the Smithsonian taken by photographer Carl Van Vechten in 1939, I recreated in cotton fabrics and image transfer fabric, a section of the scene from that photo, creatively reimagining his shirt to contain words representing he was a writer. In the backdrop of the image of Langston Hughes is the American Flag merged with African fabric to represent his African American heritage. The quilt is also bound with African fabric. Across the top of his hat I placed the word from the poem “pioneer” as I see Langston Hughes as a “Pioneer Poet”. He was the “pioneer on the plain” of writing relevant to the African American experience.

“Let America Be America Again” was written in 1935, however it remains quite relevant in 2021.

In addition to sharing on this blog post, I’ve also added the image of the quilt and the Artist Statement to my Portfolio page on my website, under the “Special Stories” section; as well as update to my News page (updates on my “textile art adventures”).

After the show Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West opens at The James Museum (show runs September 3, 2022 – January 8, 2023), it will begin a national tour through 2025.

According to Collections Manager at The James Museum, my piece Langston Hughes, Pioneer Poet will travel with the show to the following locations:

Additional venues into 2025 are currently being explored.

If you’d like to read Langston Hughes’ poem that inspired this quilt – Let America Be America Again – you can read the entire poem at this website: poets.org/poem/let-america-be-america-again