On January 26, 2011 the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) will unveil an impactful new exhibition entitled, Patience to Raise the Sun: Art Quilts from Haiti & Their Power to Change Women's Lives. The exhibit, which marks the first new installation during AAMP's year-long 35th Anniversary celebration, features a collection of twenty-two original art quilts and showcases the unique collaboration that led to their creation. The exhibit is the culmination of the collective efforts of PeaceQuilts, a non-profit American humanitarian organization, Bennington Museum which organized the exhibit, and the women of Haiti who embraced the unlikely art of quilt making as a means to generate an income for themselves and their families. The outcome of this extraordinary triumvirate is an exhibit that not only presents the distinctive artistry of Haitian quilts, but also captures an inspiring story of vision, cooperation and entrepreneurial energy. AAMP is also honored to announce that Beverly Lomax, philanthropist and quilt artist, Evelyn Smalls of United Bank and Florcy Morisset of Vivant Gallery have agreed to serve as our honorary co-chairs for this powerful exhibition.
“The African American Museum in Philadelphia is proud to be able to present the Patience to Raise the Sun exhibit,” states museum President and CEO Romona Riscoe Benson. “While Haiti continues its struggle to recover from the earthquake, we welcome the opportunity to share the beautiful craftsmanship of the Haitian quilters and to support the inspiring mission of PeaceQuilts.”
The story of the Patience to Raise the Sun exhibit begins in 2006, when Jeanne Staples first traveled to Haiti to encourage Haitian women to apply their skills in embroidery to quilt making. Staples had observed that while the Haitians' exquisitely embroidered textiles was widely admired, the items usually failed to sell at American art fairs because most American found the tablecloths and napkins too fancy to use. Inspired by the story of the Gees Bend quilters, Staples, a professional artist trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, thought that applying the Haitians' beautiful needlework to quilts might result in a new commodity. She presented her vision to the order of Les Filles de Marie Reine Immaculee (Daughters of Mary Queen Immaculate) a religious order that oversees ten schools and five domestic arts schools that teach young Haitian women marketable skills such as dressmaking and cooking. According to Staples, “Once (the order) saw quilting as a skill with employment value, it was not a hard sell.” With the help of several volunteers who traveled to the island to teach the Haitians how to quilt, Staples vision of a quilt making cooperative came to life. By 2009, using materials donated by quilters from throughout New England, the PeaceQuilts cooperative had produced over one hundred hand-stitched quilts to be sold in the United States. All proceeds from the sale of the quilts were returned to the quilters, providing much needed income to sustain themselves and their families. The project gained momentum when Bennington Museum decided to develop a nationwide traveling exhibition and catalogue to highlight the creativity of the Haitian quilts and the empowering mission of PeaceQuilts.
The quilts displayed in Patience to Raise the Sun showcase the Haitians' distinctive approach to quilt making -- one that combines Haiti's unique folk traditions with centuries old African American and Anglo American quilting techniques to create a new art form. The quilts are alive with the vibrant colors of the island, and populated with images from Haitian proverbs, the Bible and everyday life. They are visual testaments to Haiti's rich and complex cultural heritage.
Today, following the devastation of the 2010 earthquake and subsequent cholera outbreak, the PeaceQuilts cooperative has become a crucial means of survival for its members. Income derived from the sale of the quilts helps sustain the quilters and their families during these very difficult times.
To learn out how to purchase a quilt visit www.haitipeacequilts.org.