Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What Does a Traveling Exhibition Look Like?

The My American Series quilts, along with two quilts designed in the fashion of the Gee's Bend quilts, and a quilt on a local Hartford, CT man, left this morning to travel to Connecticut for the first leg of their tour. The quilts are being escorted by Dr. Gaither and one of her students, Sara Allred. They left in the early hours of the morning and are currently making their approach into Hartford as I type. I have been receiving driving updates since about 5:45 this morning somewhat making this a "community" transportation effort.

One question I always receive after workshops and sometimes during tours is "How are the quilts transported?" The image here can give you a clue. For this exhibition, the quilts are individually packed into large plastic containers and stacked in a manner that will provide the flattest surface possible. When feasible, the quilts are then chauffeured by vehicle to ensure their safe arrival at their final destination rather than shipping them. When the quilts weigh anywhere between 35-55 pounds and are at a minimum 8 feet long and/or wide, you don't really want to be sending them by post where they are priced by weight. Even the Postal Service's newly advertised package shipping policy of "if it fits, it ships" in one of their pre-priced boxes will fall short of providing an adequate shipping box for these artworks. This process is a change from the in-area quilt transportation which, up until this point, has been packing the quilts into large rolling suitcases or in a large bag as was evidenced by a photo I posted in September when J2WH left - something that would strike fear in any museum conservator's heart.

In addition to the quilts, the hanging rods had to go and those were entertainment to fit in the car. After J2WH left the Banneker-Douglass Museum, the hanging rod stayed in my office for at least a month because there simply wasn't enough room in Dr. Gaither's car to take it, the quilt, and another person without causing damage to something or someone. When I finally took it to her in my car I nearly put a hole in the ceiling of my office and the front door of the museum. Naturally clumsy people such as myself really should not be entrusted with carrying, moving, or generally handling long wooden poles without supervision and assistance. Last night we had to fit 7 hanging rods into the van which literally ran the length of the vehicle going under the seats from the back of the van all the way under the front passenger seat. For the longest pole, it was touch and go for a minute as to whether or not it would fit.

As the exhibition will be hung in multiple venues, Dr. Gaither is providing large giclee (pronounced gee-clay) prints, aka really good scanned images printed out, of all of the My American Series quilts to be set up with the Gee's Bend-inspired quilts at the Hartford Stage. These images will help show Dr. Gaither's other works on display in Hartford as part of the Threads in the Community exhibition going on from December through February. To transport the framed canvases, we had to pack the car in such a manner that they would have a large space to lie flat. We then placed cardboard between them to protect the images and wrapped them with a large piece of fabric to help hold them in place during the drive so they wouldn't go flying and strike anyone in the head in the event of a fast stop. There was also a very large framed print of the Poulson Slaver quilt, the 3rd in the My American Series. This print was so large it could only fit in the van by sliding it through the open rear gate of the van and even then it just barely fit laying flat between the back of the rear seat and the quilt box pushed up against the back of the front seats. Minor miracle there.

After everything was packed in, there was actually room in the van to see out the back believe it or not. Without even considering it, we just so happened to leave room for two overnight bags plus their owners. When you look at the photo of the packed van you can see Dr. Gaither just peeking out over the precious cargo on the left hand side. Not a bad night's packing if I do say so myself.
More stories will come in the next few days on the progress of the traveling exhibition from Sara Allred along with more photos. Stay tuned to learn more about the exhibition as it travels as well as some of the other quilts included.

1 comment:

Carol Benson said...

Thanks for keeping us posted (in such an entertaining manner), keep up the terrific work and please tell Joan we wish her safe travels!