Quilts Tell Stories At Montclair Art Museum


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Montclair-Art-Quilts3A new exhibit has opened at the Montclair Art Museum, and if you love quilts or are a student of modern American history, you’re going to want to stop by.

“From Hand To Heart” features 30 quilts by African-American quilters from the permanent collection of Alabama’s Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. There are two of the famous Gee’s Bend quilts, and if you’ve never seen any of that work, they are alone worth a trip to Montclair. But there’s a bigger story in the quilts of Yvonne Wells, which are the first to greet you as you enter the exhibit.
Wells focuses her quilts on the civil rights struggles of 20th century America. There is a quilt honoring Rosa Parks, who sparked the end of segregation in Montgomery by refusing to give up her seat on a city bus to a white passenger. Ingeniously, Wells has used fabric printed with the words to the “Pledge of Allegiance” for Parks’ dress in the quilt. Another Wells quilt tells the story of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball, while a third looks a some of the darker moments of the Civil Rights era.

Still, this may not be the quilt show for everybody. If your idea of quilting is a precisely appliquéd “Dear Jane” or Baltimore Album quilt, you will be frustrated by the piecework. If you have counted the stitches per inch in the white whole cloth quilt at the New England Quilting Museum, you will be frustrated by the ragged quilting that marks many of the pieces in the “Hand to Heart” show.

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But keep in mind that the quilts in Montclair were not made by women who quilted at leisure and who could afford to buy the finest English and American cottons for their work. Wells was a gym teacher who made her first quilt when the heat was off in her home one winter.

“From Hand To Heart” is at the Montclair Art Museum through January 4, 2015. The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, and children under 12 are free. Admission is free for everyone on the first Thursday of the month from 5 to 9 p.m. and the first Friday of the month from noon to 5 p.m.

On Thursday, October 9, at 7 p.m. there will be a special lecture on Yvonne Wells’ quilts and the civil rights movement. That talk is $15 for members and $18 for nonmembers. More details about that talk here

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]


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