Thursday, April 29, 2010
My American Series - The Friendship/BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport Quilt
The Friendship/Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport Quilt is a somewhat tricky quilt to write about. This quilt took Dr. Gaither's concept of community involvement from community provided stories and images to a new level with community members assigned different squares on the quilt to take home and sew. Dr. Gaither conceptualized the quilt and pieced it together, but the actual sewing of this quilt was done by many hands with the final product pulled together by Dr. Gaither, Yvonne Henry, Peggie Bessicks, and Dr. Gaither's sister and mother.
The Airport Quilt came about as an extension of Trails, Tracks, Tarmac. While TTT was on display at the Banneker-Douglass Museum, NACPS started working on several satellite exhibitions including a few small displays of objects and small quilts for display at the BWI Airport. BWI currently sits on land once occupied by African American communities, including several featured in TTT. (Note: the final "T" in TTT stands for Tarmac - as in airport tarmac.) During the run of TTT, the Northern Arundel Cultural Preservation Society began working with airport officials to curate an art exhibition featuring works by several local artists. Dr. Gaither served as the curator for this exhibition and contributed a few pieces to the show. She decided to create a quilt especially for this exhibition that features the people and places associated with the history of BWI and the land it sits on.
As I mentioned before, this quilt was sewn together by several community members and then pieced together by Dr. Gaither and a few friends and family members at the very end. This method of quilting has created an interesting dynamic between Dr. Gaither and this quilt which did not become apparent until quite recently. As I have worked on pulling together information on her work for various projects, I have discovered an extreme lack of information on this particular quilt in comparison to all of the other My American Series quilts. It is also the quilt that Dr. Gaither spends the least amount of time discussing when she talks about this series. I would be interested to see how much information and documentation I could uncover on this quilt if I could bring all of the quilters together.
While this is a community-sewn quilt, it is not necessarily a communal quilt as the community worked individually rather than all together to put this quilt together. When working on the next quilt in the series (J2WH) Dr. Gaither incorporated elements of the community quilting from both the Airport Quilt and the TTT Quilt. She used community members to help her sew the quilt together just as she did with the Airport Quilt, however this time the quilt stayed in one place and the community came to it. Just like TTT, she allowed the community to bring stories to the quilt, only on J2WH the community added the stories, emotions, and names to the quilt themselves rather than having her do it for them.