Freedom Center exhibition uses quilts to encourage racial healing and storytelling

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is turning to a familiar but perhaps unexpected item to confront racism in America. A new exhibit of quilts will be on display in “We Are the Story: A Visual Response to Racism,” organized and curated by Dr. Carolyn L. Mazloomi – courtesy of the Women of Color Quilters Network and part of Story Quilts, a program initiative created by Kathy Wade, executive director of Learning Through Art. The exhibition opens July 2 at the Freedom Center.

“We Are the Story” showcases 53 quilts highlighting the history of civil rights, police brutality and racism in America. Dr. Mazloomi curated the exhibition in response to the murder of George Floyd in 2020. The quilts present an alternative visual medium to approach sensitive social issues embedded in American memory, such as race, class, gender and shared cultural trauma, in a way that emphasizes storytelling and encourages healing.

“As an artist and curator, I firmly believe art has the capacity to touch the spirit, engage, educate and heal in ways that words alone cannot,” said Dr. Mazloomi. “I cried for days after seeing the video of George Floyd’s murder. African Americans are crying out for fairness, justice, equality and for protection from brutal police. In response to that cry, and to help educate the public on brutality, inequities and racism in America, I was inspired to curate ‘We Are the Story.’ ”

Quilting can be a powerful art form, with its widespread appeal and association with comfort, warmth and healing.

“Quilts and quilting are especially important to African American culture, because the art form was historically one of the few mediums accessible to marginalized groups to tell their own story, to provide warmth for their families and to empower them with a voice,” added Dr. Mazloomi.

Story Quilts is a program initiative created by Kathy Wade that engages quilters to share their truths from the patchwork of their lives, weaving stories to create a tapestry of reconciliation and resilience.

The exhibit is free for Freedom Center Members and as an add-on to general admission for non-Members for $5 per adult and $3 per child. And it is free for all guests on Wednesdays and Sundays, courtesy of the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation and Learning Through Art, Inc.

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