Are you ready for it?
It is my pleasure to introduce to you the seventh quilt in Dr. Gaither's My American Series,
Marvtastic Memories documents the history of the National Black Theatre Festival set to open next week in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. As with all of Dr. Gaither's quilts there is so much detail, it is going to take days to explain all of the various components. I will start by giving you a general overview today and then make frequent updates throughout the run of the festival with more information and detail.
So, where to begin? Perhaps by talking about the largest component of the quilt - the figure in black. This figure is a nearly life sized 3-D image of Larry Leon Hamlin, the founder of the National Black Theatre Festival. He founded the festival in 1989 with the vision of hosting a festival every two years, something that has happened consistently since it began. Dr. Gaither fashioned the figure of Mr. Hamlin based on photos taken from the annual programs, matching his brightly adorned clothing down to his hat and sunglasses. Sadly, he passed away shortly before the 2009 festival. Dr. Gaither placed an angel in one of his hands with the other pointing down on the orange map of the theatre festival's venues to symbolize him as the event's guardian angel. For those of you familiar with Dr. Gaither's work, you will recognize the angel as one designed by Ms. Ruth Taylor, Dr. Gaither's "Angel Lady."
Working to the right from Mr. Hamlin's hand you will see photos, oba faces (the brown faces), and black and purple boxes. Each of these sets contains the names of all of the plays and honored celebrities (in the boxes) and the festival chairs for each year. The first festival, held in 1989, was chaired by Maya Angelou followed by Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. These sets continue around the top and right borders of the quilt all the way through the 2011 festival. If you look underneath these sets you will see Dr. Gaither's traditional My American Series border with a few alterations. On this quilt there is no railroad fabric, but all of the other elements (African fabric, red and blue fabric for the blood shed in the Middle Passage, the safety pins, and the rolled American flag colored fabric) are all there.
On the bottom border you will see several small red rectangles. These are actually the backs of director's chairs with the names of many of the festival plays' directors on them. Also on the bottom of the quilt you can see what look like many light brown lines. Believe it or not, those are letter beads spelling out the names of each and every production company to present a show at the festival in its 28 year history. There is a good story about those which I will share in the next couple days involving Dr. Gaither, myself, and a large problem with math. In the middle of this border is an image which represents stage curtains with the name and details of the festival spelled out in letter beads.
Moving to the left border, you will see a figure in purple just below Mr. Hamlin's foot. That is his wife, Sylvia, with the word "Marvtastic" written next to her. "Marvtastic" was a word Mr. Hamlin coined to convey his, and those of people involved with the festival's, sentiments towards this large event. As you move up Mr. Hamlin's leg, you will see white writing listing the names of the festival's sponsors throughout the year.
I will save the details about the center of the quilt for my next posting. The quilt is currently on display at the Milton Rhodes Arts Center in Winston-Salem and will remain so through 6 August 2011. If you are in Winston-Salem or nearby in the next week, please stop by to take a look. The quilt is on display in the main lobby of the Arts Center