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Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt at Tacoma Art Museum
Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt at Tacoma Art Museum
Only West-Coast venue to present this new exhibition

TACOMA, WA - Tacoma Art Museum is the only West-Coast venue for Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt, which features the work of African-American quilters from Gee's Bend, Alabama. The exhibition features fifty-one quilts highlighting some of the now-famous quilters and new artists alike. It introduces new motifs as well as never-before-seen quilts from the early twentieth century. The exhibition is on view September 22 through December 9, 2007.

Renowned for their visual appeal and compelling history, the Gee's Bend quilts have achieved widespread acclaim. The popularity of the 2002 traveling exhibition The Quilts of Gee's Bend created interest in the quilts and led to the organization of The Architecture of the Quilt, which is the second traveling exhibition of Gee's Bend quilts organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Approximately 750 residents live in Gee's Bend. Located on a peninsula formed by a hairpin bend in the Alabama River, the community's geographic isolation contributed to its unique history and the preservation of cultural traditions. The quilts carry the legacy of former slave Dinah Miller, whose descendants include several of the quilters in this exhibition. The struggles of their sharecropper ancestors, the poverty of the Great Depression and improvements made possible by the New Deal, as well as the turbulent decades of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s figure prominently in the lives and traditions of these quiltmakers.

The quilting tradition in Gee's Bend has been passed down through generations. Traditionally, the quilts were strictly utilitarian and were constructed from whatever materials were available, primarily worn-out clothing. The resulting quilts have a bold, geometric look distinctive to Gee's Bend, yet innovation and variation are valued, and each quilter also has her own style.

"Gee's Bend quilts represent the essence of the local community," said Rock Hushka, Director of Curatorial Administration and Curator of Contemporary and Northwest Art. "From this single place, a distinct voice and intriguing artform emerged and attracted the attention of the nation. One unique aspect of the quilts' aesthetic is that they bear remarkable parallels to jazz music: asymmetry, high contrast, and improvisational patterns. Each quilter expresses her own individual style and approach."

Gee's Bend became known for its quilts during the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-1960s when the Freedom Quilting Bee was organized. They were not widely known outside the region until William Arnett, a collector and the founder of Tinwood Alliance, a non-profit foundation supporting American vernacular art, began to collect them in the late 1990s. Tinwood Alliance partnered with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to organize the first exhibition. The two formed a second partnership for The Architecture of the Quilt. All of the quilts in the exhibition are from the Tinwood Alliance collection.

The show travels to seven museums, stopping at The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Denver Museum of Art, Indianapolis Museum of Art, and Philadelphia Museum of Art, in addition to Tacoma Art Museum.

Immediately following The Architecture of the Quilt, Tacoma Art Museum brings local voices to the galleries with Threads that Bind: Works by Pacific Northwest African American Quilters, on view December 18, 2007, through February 17, 2008. The Association of Pacific Northwest African American Quilters is dedicated to preserving and sharing the evolution of African-American quilting. Members meet regularly for quilting bees, organize classes and workshops, and show their work around the region. Quilts at Washington State History Museum

From September 15 through December 9, 2007, Washington State History Museum presents two complimentary quilting exhibitions:

Evolution of the Art Quilt is a juried show that examines how artists' works have evolved with time and experience. The quilts in this exhibition expand common perceptions of what a quilt is, from functional craft to work of art. The exhibition is organized by the Contemporary QuiltArt Association and is presented by the Washington State History Museum.

Washington's Historic Quilts features quilts from Washington's past, drawn from the collection of the Washington State Historical Society. The exhibit highlights a variety of construction and quilting techniques, as well as designs and fabrics from various time periods. Included among the quilts are a pioneer quilt, a wedding quilt, and a crazy quilt. The exhibition is organized by the Washington State History Museum.

Located at 1911 Pacific Avenue in Tacoma, Washington State History Museum is within walking distance of Tacoma Art Museum.

Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt has been organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and Tinwood Alliance, Atlanta. Local support provided by Key Foundation-a foundation funded by KeyBank, and by Helen and Peter Bing.

Tacoma Art Museum connects people and builds community through art. The museum serves the diverse communities of the region through its collection, exhibitions, and learning programs, emphasizing art and artists from the Northwest. The museum's five galleries display an array of major national shows, the best of Northwest art, creatively themed exhibitions, and historical retrospectives. In addition, there is an Education Wing for children, adults, and seniors with an art resource center, classroom, and studio for art making. Tacoma Art Museum is located in Tacoma's Museum District, near the Museum of Glass, the Washington State History Museum, and historic Union Station.

Tacoma Art Museum press release

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