Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Farewell, What's Next, and Above All Else - Thank You!

J2WH was deinstalled this morning and what a sigh-worthy moment it was. When Dr. Gaither and one of her students, Sarah, arrived at BDM this morning to take the quilt down we all took a moment to reflect on the departure of the quilt and the many events that have taken place along its journey thus far. I asked Dr. Gaither to talk about the process of creating the quilt and how it came to be at the Banneker-Douglass Museum on film partially so that we would have a record of the exhibit but also to help reflect on a fantastic and inspiring exhibition. As Dr. Gaither spoke about the journey, I couldn't help but reflect on the many amazing stories and events I was witness to during this exhibition. Watching people come in only to stop talking and stare at the quilt or exclaim "wow," reading the comments in the book accompanying the quilt in the museum, sharing the story of the quilt and watching the many visitors get excited and ask questions, looking at the statistics for this blog as they climbed higher and higher with hits coming in from more and more areas throughout the globe, and helping to share this fabulous artwork with so many people it is little wonder why I am sad to see J2WH leave.

As for what is next, J2WH is going in for "repairs." Repairs isn't really the right word. A tune up perhaps if I am going to stick with car terminology. Dr. Gaither will be working with several folks to tighten up loose stitches, more firmly secure the rod pockets that held the quilt onto the mounting rod, and fix a few things on the body of the quilt as well as work to get out all of the dust the fabric picked up while hanging on the brick wall. If you are wondering why they would need to work on the rod pockets since it was hung for several months, this picture should help explain why. Yes those are staple removers in their hands. In order to help secure the quilt to the rod, the pockets were literally stapled to the wooden pole just in case some of the pockets didn't hold against the weight of the extra embellishments from the quilting workshops.
As the previous posting announces, J2WH will be packing up and going on tour beginning in December of this year. The quilt will go with the other quilts in the American Series for a city-wide quilt exhibition in Hartford, Connecticut. If you live in the area, be sure to stay tuned for more details on how you can see the quilts and participate in one of Dr. Gaither's workshops.

If you would like to get involved in Dr. Gaither's latest quilt, here is your chance. Dr. Gaither is currently working on the final installment to the American Series focusing on the black watermen of the Chesapeake. Dr. Gaither will open this quilt to the general public to add their own stitches just as she did for J2WH. There will be a quilting session here at the Banneker-Douglass Museum on 14 November and at the Captain Salem Avery House in Shady Side, MD on 21 November. Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks.

For my last "what's next" segment, I want to let you know that the blog will continue and follow J2WH as it goes out on tour around the country. Please come back and read about its progress as well as find out more information on some of Dr. Gaither's other works. For an extra special treat, be on the look out for a possible posting from Dr. Gaither herself. While the previous posting was written in her name, it was a group effort to try to teach her how to blog. I have given her a few weeks to practice before I ask her to do a posting completely on her own. I guess this is my own way of teasing her as she teased me in the days leading up to the start of the J2WH exhibition about handing her more work to do.

Finally I would like to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who came out to add their stitches to the quilt, to those who came to view the quilt, to those who participated in the workshops, to those who read this blog, to those who shared the story of J2WH. The past 10 months have been a gratifying and humbling experience for everyone involved in this project and we are profoundly grateful. I especially want to thank Dr. Gaither for all that she has done on behalf of, well, everyone listed above. Without your inspiration, talent, boundless energy, generosity, and spirit none of this would have ever happened in the first place. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to make our own mark on this important time in America's history. We now send this quilt on knowing that many others around the world will be able to share in the amazing journey we have been privileged to be a part of over the past 10 months.

Genevieve Kaplan & Dr. Joan M. E. Gaither

Thank You!

J2WH Starts its Journey

As the image above indicates, the Journey to the White House quilt is finally leaving the Banneker-Douglass Museum and hitting the road. We have been promising for several months information about taking the quilt on tour and we are now able to release the details. The upcoming tour dates and cities are as follows:

15 December 2009 - 15 February 2010
Multiple venues
Hartford, Connecticut

3 March 2010 - 6 June 2010
Reginald F. Lewis Museum
Baltimore, MD

Details are being worked out for Milwaukee, WI and locations in California. Look for more information here as we finalize the details for these venues and others.

If you are interested in bringing the quilt to your area, please contact us at ObamaCommunityQuilt@gmail.com. We would like to see the quilt go to as many locations as possible to encourage more and more people to celebrate the important people, places, and events in their own journey.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Last Day!!!

Today is the last day you can see J2WH while it is on display at the Banneker-Douglass Museum. The museum will be open from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Come and see it before it leaves!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Table linens beware!

Following the line of thinking that you never know when inspiration is going to strike, I thought I would share a story that shows how inspiration can strike anywhere - and in Dr. Gaither's case could be cause for table linens to become artwork.

In a previous posting, I related the story of how one of Dr. Gaither's quilts in the Trails, Tracks, Tarmac exhibition was designed on a napkin at her favorite local restaurant. When I first heard the story I couldn't help but laugh and have since repeated the story and pointed out the image of the napkin while the quilt was on display at the Banneker-Douglass Museum. Last week I got to watch as yet another restaurant table linen, well actually the paper covering the table linen, became the sketchpad for a new work.

While at lunch in a certain Annapolis restaurant, Dr. Gaither and I were having a discussion on various events when she suddenly got a look on her face and all the sudden started talking about needing paper and a pen to write something down. Then her eyes lighted on the table with the realization that the table we were seated at was covered in paper and was the perfect drawing space. I wasn't quite sure what was happening until she started sketching something based on our conversation and talking about a 3-part piece she is developing. The sketch that took shape on the table covering is to become the basis for her idea for the second quilt in the series. For the next several minutes I was able to watch her creative process at work and see the "birth" of a new artwork. It was certainly something to see.

If you ever have the opportunity to watch an artist work and see their creative process it is fascinating. No two people share the same process. When I was in high school I remember my first trip to Giverny, Impressionist painter Claude Monet's home 50 miles outside of Paris. While touring the gardens that Monet painted many times, I came across one of my friends sitting on a bench in front of an archway sketching the scene. I ended up spending the next hour just watching him work and seeing the piece come together. On a subsequent trip to Giverny 10 years later, I was drawn to that same location by the memory of my last visit and spent quite some time photographing the scene inspired by Tony's pencil sketches. There is something inspiring about watching an artist. I encourage you to try it the next time you see an artist at work. They might just inspire your creative process as well.

And just in case you are interested in finding out what happened to the table covering when we left the restaurant - lets just say our server may have been wondering why half of the table covering was missing when we left. I was even more amused the following week when Dr. Gaither brought the in-progress quilt that makes up the first part of the series for Saturday's workshop and the table covering drawing was on top of the box. If nothing else, I have certainly learned that the next time I join Dr. Gaither at a restaurant I better have pen and paper handy just in case the Muses strike and the restaurant doesn't have paper napkins or table coverings!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

J2WH in Dr. Gaither's words

This past Saturday, Dr. Gaither gave the final Quilting from the Soul workshop during J2WH's run at the Banneker-Douglass Museum. During the workshop, she talked about how she creates her works, what goes into her process, and provided a nice discussion on J2WH in front of the quilt. I caught a portion of the discussion on film and am providing it below. This is, interestingly enough, the first time you are able to see a full shot of the quilt installed at the museum on this blog.

The video clip runs just over 5 minutes. Five minutes and eight seconds to be exact. I will post a transcript soon. Enjoy!

Oh, and just in case you forgot, the last day to see J2WH as well as the Obama Mural at the Banneker-Douglass Museum is Saturday, 26 September 2009!


The other thing that shows up a lot is a book, the Bible, or the album there’s always some religious piece or symbol that’s there and you can do that any way you like. Again think about how you want to tell your story.

For here there is also a cornucopia of fruit, second row. On each end there is a cornucopia of fruit there and a fruit bowl of fruit over here and that symbolizes plenty, abundance. So if say for someone you had a very abundant life with many many friends, you might want to do a cornucopia or a bowl with all the faces of all these friends that supported you. So on this side I have all the faces of the Democratic candidates and all the Republican ones are over here on the side. And I had to change it at the last minute because there came Sarah Palin bigger than life so I tried to, you know, put her face in but make it a little larger let it just outshine or overlap McCain just a little tiny bit. So trying to get those details and things that are there.

Hillary Clinton was there so there’s a story not just about her but it was also the anniversary of women’s right to vote. And Sarah Palin said she wanted to thank two women who made it possible for her to be in this position and she thanked Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro. And on my square I thought Shirley Chisholm, you know [Carol] Mosley Braun. I mean there were women there even before them so I wanted to put them in. Even for Barack Obama along the side edge is Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and Allan Keyes who also ran for that position. So in terms of trying to be fair and open and tell that complete story as best you can, that’s what I really am about and with my own work.

So as you document your stories, who are the characters, who are the players, what are the events, what’s the important emotion that you want to tie to it. OK? So I’ve given a lot to think about.

For this series, the American Series quilts there’s six, as I said, that will be in the series. They start with African fabric, fabric from Africa. Here, most of them, some from Ghana, some from Kenya, but it’s also mudcloth and for here I decided that this was a man that needed to be surrounded with some spirituality so purple is the color for that. So that’s there. Green is the color for life and I thought he was invigorating us, bringing new life, and new ideas and all this stuff so that helped me to think about the colors I use. But all of that fabric is from Africa that represents the homeland Africa.

The pins that go all the way around symbolize the pain of being pulled from Africa in slavery, coming through the Middle Passage which is the blue, and then the red and the black sort of fabric that is there represents the blood that was lost in that Middle Passage. And then as you come in the stars and stripes and flags you see, there is a very thick rope it’s like a coiling over the top that I wrap the fabric around to physically symbolize being brought in slavery, captivity, into the U.S.

And then the railroad track pattern represents, acknowledges, the Underground Railroad and on it I have started putting the chronology. So if you start down in this lower left hand corner where the white square is and the heart and come all the way around, it chronicles major events in the life of Barack Obama, the president, and every other one also shows and highlights bills that are attached to his name while he was a Senator so when people say he didn’t do anything, what did he do, well you can go every other one and see, and I did not get them all, but these are major pieces of legislation that are tied to him. So I wanted to try to, you know, make all that work.

So each square has a story and one of the things that I really like about this whole format is that it allows you, it pulls people’s attention because you discover one little thing and you go “Oh my gosh.” My aunt gave me that hat and she said “I want this on the quilt” and I went “OK,” you know like throwing your hat in the ring. So its what I did and around it it says “Got Hope,” you know, a little couple things there.

Its…I call this quilting from the soul. I think anything you want to put on it is fine. OK? You do it any way you want, any way you want to. It’s your story. If you want to mix up fabrics, if you want to mix up…and it works for you and it’s a part of your story, fine. Ok, so that’s what I do. So everybody has my permission to tell your story in any way that you want you know to get that meaning and the heart of the story. It can’t be just any old story, but it has to be something that is really important to you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

5 Days Left!!!

Only 5 more days left to see Journey to the White House before it leaves the Banneker-Douglass Museum. The quilt will be on display here until Saturday, September 26, 2009. Make sure you stop by before it leaves!

While I have said it is leaving a few times before only to announce extensions to the exhibit, I can guarantee the exhibit will not be extended this time. It will be leaving for some preservation work before it heads out on tour. More details on that to come in a couple weeks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quilting Workshop with Dr. Gaither

If you are planning to attend the 19 September 2009 Quilting from the Soul workshop with Dr Gaither and have yet to sign up, you should do so quickly. The workshop registration list is nearly full with only 3 spaces remaining as of this posting. For more information check the postings below or the events listings on the right hand side of this posting.

To register, email the BDM Education Department at BDMPrograms@goci.state.md.us or call 410.216.6186.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Visiting J2WH over Labor Day Weekend

I wanted to post a quick note to say that the Banneker-Douglass Museum will be closed over the Labor Day holiday starting on Friday, September 4 running through Monday, September 7.

We will reopen on Tuesday, September 8 at 10:00 a.m. In addition the museum will return to its regular operating hours of Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

If you can only come to see the quilt over Labor Day weekend, you can actually see it if you look in the museum's front windows and face the brick wall/former church. You won't get an in-depth look, but you will be able to see it.

Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Journey

The J2WH exhibit is entering its final weeks at the Banneker-Douglass Museum. As the exhibition is nearing its closing date, I have started thinking about the amazing experiences I have had while the quilt has been on display. As I contemplated what to write about in this posting, I began going through some of the earlier blog postings and realized that I have never actually told the story about how J2WH came to visit and share its story here at the Banneker-Douglass Museum.

J2WH almost didn't come to the Banneker-Douglass Museum. I was aware throughout the late summer and fall that Dr. Gaither was working on an Obama quilt with friends telling me "Wait until you see her latest quilt," however I only saw it once in the very initial stages before December. After the election, the local ABC station contacted the museum about doing a story on unique perspectives and viewpoints on the election that would run in a series leading up to the inauguration. After going to a few different people, the media request finally ended up on my desk. We decided to ask representatives from the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture and the museum's Foundation to participate in the filming but the timing of the interview was bad and our original speakers could not take part. At that point, Mr. Ted Mack, the then-Vice Chair of the Commission, contacted Dr. Gaither and asked her if she would be interested in bringing J2WH down and talking about it for the filming. She agreed and a few days later, J2WH made its first visit to the museum in mid-December.

When the reporter and cameraman arrived, they were quite surprised with what they found. The quilt was unlike anything they had ever seen and as you can hopefully tell through the video clips on this blog, Dr. Gaither is quite the speaker when it comes to her work. The reporter spoke with Dr. Gaither for an hour on her work and while the cameraman was getting some final shots, turned to Dr. Gaither and myself and asked if BDM was going to put the quilt on display. At that point, we turned and looked at each other realizing that the thought of exhibiting the quilt at the museum had never occurred to either one of us. Our first response was "We don't know" and 10 minutes later I was getting final approval from the museum's director to put it on display for the inauguration weekend and the month of February.

From that day, it was a marathon to get the quilt ready for display. I launched this blog a few days after the filming and we started to go to work on preparing the new exhibition. Dr. Gaither was working at a breakneck pace to complete the quilt with friends and family helping nearly round the clock. This is quite a feat given that it was finals time for Dr. Gaither and the Christmas holiday was only about a week away. Did I also happen to mention that up until this point completion of the quilt was not planned until spring 2009? Compressing several months worth of work into one certainly caused some anxiety and chaos as well as a few threats of "I'm going to get you for all of this extra work" from Dr. Gaither directed my way. (Always said with a smile. Well, almost always.)

I am not sure when the quilting sessions came into play. I think they were always part of Dr. Gaither's plan, but we expanded them by adding dates at the Bates Legacy Center and at BDM. I don't think there could have been a better time for these sessions than the days leading up to the inauguration. Even though the sooner-than-expected completion date made life more difficult, it was all worth it with people from all over the country coming to participate, adding it as part of their Inaugural experience and making a long lasting contribution to documenting the country's spirit and emotions during this historic time.

I have always thought it fascinating that had it not been for the reporter's question, the quilt might never have come to BDM. Amazing how great things can come from asking one question. Had it not been for that question, the J2WH exhibition might never have existed, at least in the way it does now. It makes me stop and think about the numerous other journeys in life all launched from a single question.