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Quiltmaking in Gee's Bend

The quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend first garnered attention for their skills in the 1960s, when the Freedom Quilting Bee, a sewing cooperative that produced quilts and other sewn products for department stores, was established. The Bee provided women with an income and a sense of independence during the tumultuous Civil Rights era. In the mid-1990s, while researching African American folk art in the South, art collector William Arnett became interested in the history of quiltmaking. After seeing a photograph of Gee’s Bend quiltmaker Annie Mae Young standing with one of her quilts, he visited her and the other accomplished quiltmakers in the community. Working together, they organized the acclaimed exhibition The Quilts of Gee’s Bend in 2002. The overwhelming positive response to the show led to a renaissance of quiltmaking in the area. Since the 2002 exhibition, younger artists have been inspired to pick up needle and thread and older quiltmakers who had abandoned the practice took it up again. The current exhibition, Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt, showcases much of this new work.
 

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