Quilt Show

Spectators check out the quilts from the African American Quilt Circle Show at the Hillsborough Arts Council Gallery at the opening night of the show, Friday, Jan. 29. From left, “The Hour Glass Ladies in Rhythm” by Ida La-Vern Couch, “Tutti Frutti” by Annette Anderson Bailey and “Jesus Loves Me” by Robin Pinchback.

There’s something about the winter season and quilting that just goes hand-in-hand.

The Hillsborough Arts Council has opened its latest exhibit showcasing quilts from the African American Quilt Circle, which is based in Durham.

The organization hosted the opening reception for the show at the Hillsborough Arts Council Gallery, 102 N. Churton St., on Friday, Jan. 29, and the show will run until March 19.

Marcia McDade, who helped organize the show, is a volunteer for the Arts Council and a quilter herself.

“I work with the gallery aspect of the shows,” McDade said. “And that is like when we have special shows, I hang them or help the artist to hang them, I contact the artist; so I do that part. And we have another volunteer who takes charge of the shop, and she supervises the items that are consigned and how they’re laid out. The volunteerism here is really great.”

Also inspired by Black History Month, McDade said the motivation for hosting a show for the African American Quilt Circle originated a few years ago.

“Two or three years ago, we had a quilt show from the [Arts Council] members,” McDade said. “And then last year we wanted to go outside of our circle to get quilters and we got quilts from the Cedar Grove quilters, which is out in the north county. And in addition to them we got the quilters from Durham, the African American Quilting Circle. So this year we got the quilts exclusively from the African American Quilters because the tip of the iceberg was revealed, and we thought, ‘Wow this is a great group’ and they have over 60 quilters.”

The show features a variety of different influences and inspiration for quilting: there are some traditional patterns reinvented as well as some abstract pieces, such as Nancy Cash’s “Exploration” triptych quilt.

Another quilt that thinks outside the box is Melanie Y. Dantzler’s “Ties to my Heart” which commemorates the quilter’s late father by reusing his silk ties.

Dantzler has been with the Quilt Circle since 2006 and has been sewing for a long time.

“I have always enjoyed sewing most of my own garments since middle school and I loved art class as well,” Dantzler said via email. “I was listening to NPR on the radio one morning and they were running a story about a group of ladies at the Hayti Center who were quilters I was excited while I listened to the story about this group of artists and wanted to be there with them.  I would be able to combine my love of art and sewing.” 

Dantzler said the group has traveled far and wide for their love of quilting.

“This is a group a ladies who love to travel,” Dantzler said. “We have traveled to Person county, Winston Salem, Charlotte and Raleigh to participate in cultural festivals.  At the festivals, AAQC members show their quilts and fiber art pieces. We also encourage young people and adults to participate in the craft of quilting. We show them how to hand quilt and they are able to take a their own quilted piece with them.”

The African American Quilt Circle was founded in 1998 by four African American women: Bertie Howard, Jereann King, Candace Thomas and Helen Sanders. They started a group to help preserve the heritage of quilting in the African American community. The AAQC meets monthly at St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham. Group members gather together to provide support and ongoing instruction to new members or experienced quilters.

Concurrently, the AAQC also has an exhibit up at Duke Hospital.

With snow and inclement weather to be expected this season, the Arts Council has opted to keep up the quilts for a longer duration.

“In the winter, people have more trouble getting out, you have snow days,” McDade said. “So we decided to run it longer and we felt like we’d get more exposure for them and for ourselves too.”

Showcasing quilts during the cold months has been quite successful in the past too.

“To come in here in January and the warmness of the space with the bricks and the quilts seemed to really appeal to people,” McDade said. “So we’ll probably continue to do a quilt show in January for that reason, because we’ve had a good response.”