This Black Quilting Exhibition Will Blow Your Mind

Every stitch tells a story

There’s no other way to put it: The “We Who Believe in Freedom” exhibition at the American Swedish Institute is phenomenal. Curated by Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, founder of the Women of Color Quilters Network (WCQN), it’s one of seven shows in the multi-site We Are the Story initiative.

The ambitious project was organized by WCQN and the Textile Center, a.k.a. Minnevangelist’s Reason to Love Minnesota No. 55, to showcase the compelling fiber art of dozens of African American quilters. The juried exhibition at ASI, in particular, tackles heavy issues throughout Black history, including slavery, racism, the civil rights movement, discrimination in the Jim Crow South, our broken criminal justice system, and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Resistance, fortitude, and the quest for social equality are constant themes.

From left: ‘MLK: We Just Keep on Coming’ by L’Merchie Frazier,
‘Martin, Malcolm and Barack’ by Carolyn Crump

The detailing in each piece is remarkable. April Thomas Shipp’s Mama Rosa, pictured up top, depicts Rosa Parks using a combination of commercial and hand-dyed fabric with machine-piecing, appliqué, and quilting. It’s divided into two sections. “The cream section behind her represents her past life, with faded ghostly images and straight lines,” explains Shipp. “[While] the colorful section symbolizes freedom, happiness, and peace.”

It’s a lot to absorb — emotionally, intellectually, and visually. Take your time taking it all in. “We Who Believe in Freedom” will be on display at ASI through November 1.

‘Strong, Gifted and Black’ by Carolyn Crump

The national juried show “Gone but Never Forgotten: Remembering Those Lost to Police Brutality,” opens at the Textile Center’s Joan Mondale Gallery on Tuesday, September 15 and runs through December 24. It features 26 quilts, honoring individuals whose lives were ended “due to police negligence and brutality” or who were otherwise targeted and criminalized for being Black. Participating Minnesota artists include Zoe Lautz and Gwen Schagrin of Minneapolis, Jill Scholtz of Eden Prairie, and Cheryl Coulter of Bloomington.

“Gone but Never Forgotten” will be followed at Textile Center by “I Wish I Knew How it Feels to be Free,” a solo show of quilts by Dorothy Burge of Chicago (September 29-December 24, 2020); and “Racism: In the Face of Hate We Resist,” highlighting 61 quilts selected by international jury from March 26 through June 12, 2021. The artwork of Minnesota quilters Annie Chen of Minneapolis, Mimi Goodwin of St. Paul, and Maureen Johnson of Lakeville all make appearances.

‘Black Lives Matter’ by Barbara Eady

Additional host venues include the Weisman Art Museum, which is reopening October 1, Studio 106 in Burnsville, and Homewood Studios in North Minneapolis.

💡 Good to know 👉 Attendance is free but registration is required to visit the exhibitions at both ASI and the Textile Center. Notably, all seven We Are the Story exhibitions will live virtually at textilecentermn.org and wcqn.org.

American Swedish Institute
2600 Park Ave., Minneapolis, MN; 612-871-4907.

Textile Center
3000 University Ave. SE., Ste. 100, Minneapolis, MN; 612-436-0464.