Monday, August 1, 2011

At the Heart of It All...

Marvtastic Memories
National Black Theatre Festival Quilt
(c) Dr. Joan M. E. Gaither, 2011

The past few days have been a whirlwind of phone calls between Dr. Gaither and myself on the reaction to the National Black Theatre Festival quilt. The festival is in full swing starting with a large kick off party last night. The packed house featured the quilt as a backdrop for many photos and it is quite the talk of the festival which has everyone involved in the project smiling with pride in the quilt, their work, and in Dr. Gaither. I was out with a group this afternoon when Dr. Gaither called me with an update and several people gathered within earshot to hear her as she shared stories on speakerphone. Her infectious energy raced through the phone and everyone's hearts started beating a little faster with shared excitement and happiness for her.

In the last posting, I deciphered the borders. For this posting, I will decipher the interior (or heart) of the artwork. Starting at the top left corner of the quilt next to the 3-D figure you will see several small pictures of people's faces. These photos are of each of the celebrities who have performed at the festival since it began in 1989. There are at least 200 faces on the quilt. It took months to add these faces to the quilt. Dr. Gaither used images from the festival's program and drew into them to make the pictures more detailed and vibrant. Each picture was then attached on three sides, stuffed with batting, sewn on the bottom edge, and then framed with gold fabric paint. These pictures run in a circle around the quilt. It was quite an effort to make sure that every face was included on the quilt. To keep everything straight, Dr. Gaither had an excel spreadsheet which I would go through repeatedly checking to make sure everyone was on the quilt. Sometimes people were inadvertently left off the quilt and making things interesting, some people where on there a few times. One person's picture was on the quilt three times with their name spelled three different ways when I caught it.

On the top you can see a large blue eagle which is over the North Carolina state flag. These symbols pay tribute to the festival's home state. Moving from these two images to the right there is a large star made from black and gold ropes and strands of silver beads. The star serves as a counter point to the large figure on the other side of the quilt in terms of having a second large-scale image on the quilt. The star contains several celebrity photos within it. There are also the names of several different events that go on as part of the festival. In the center of the star is a bow tie and the festival's logo representing some of the events held as a part of the theatre festival.

Between the 3-D figure and the star is an orange grid which is actually a map of the festival venues in Winston-Salem. In each of the corners there are colorful images of men and women representing the music and drumming that goes on during the theatre festival. Images from festivals past are also included among the celebrity photos.

Throughout the center section of the quilt are black lines which are intended to make the quilt look somewhat like a stained glass window. The inspiration behind this were the stained glass windows at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. Dr. Gaither used my book on the cathedral's windows to give her ideas on how to make this happen. The effect simultaneously helps to tie everything together and keep the content from getting too overwhelming.

So that is the overview of the National Black Theatre Festival quilt. I will post some of the in process photos in the next few days so that you can see the evolution of the quilt from basic pieces of fabric to the finished product.

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