Quilt made by Carolyn Crump.
About the Women of Color Quilters Network
For African American women quilts have always been at the core of artistic expression, taking form in the social, economic, and spiritual lives of the women who make them. Founded by Carolyn Mazloomi in 1985, Women of Color Quilters Network (WCQN) is a non-profit national organization whose mission is to educate, preserve, exhibit, promote and document quilts made by African Americans. In recent years, WCQN has showcased the work of its members with several critically acclaimed traveling exhibits. Exhibits includeSpirits of the Cloth: Contemporary African American Quilts, organized by the Museum of Art and Design in New York City; Threads of Faith, organized by the Museum of Biblical Art in New York City; Textural Rhythms: Quilting the Jazz Tradition; Quilting African American History: Our Challenges, Creativity and Champions, And Still We Rise: Race, Culture and Visual Conversation; and Human Rights in the New Millennium. All exhibitions toured museums throughout the United States including the Smithsonian. WCQN has exhibited quilts in Japan, England, South African, Italy and Australia as part of art programs sponsored by the United States Department of State.
The WCQN website (www.wcqn.org) was developed in 1990 to provide visibility to the accomplishments of the artist members through the professional gallery pages and museum collections gallery. It also gave members immediate access to information about exhibit opportunities, announcements of upcoming events and conferences, and other resources.
As the largest, most organized body of African American quilters in the country, the Kellogg Foundation gave WCQN ninety-thousand dollars to convene a national meeting of African American quilt leaders in 2007. The major goal of the conference was to create an action plan for sustaining African American quilt organizations for the future; to discuss how the plan could be best implemented; and to consider how it could become a model for the field.
Since 1991 the master artists of WCQN, designated as cultural envoys, have worked with the United States Department of State to exhibit quilts and teach workshops in Africa, South America and Europe.
The organization’s many educational projects and workshops foster exposure to the arts, creative development, and improved self-esteem. These programs present the benefits of quilting to audiences of all ages, income levels, ethnic background, and learning abilities. The Network also uses quilt making to contribute to educational and economic development projects benefiting women and children, and has been honored by the United Nations and the International Labour Department in Geneva for this work.
WCQN is one of the few artistic organizations that capture the intersection of women’s artistic expression, cultural preservation, and socio-economic empowerment. Since 1985, under the direction of Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, WCQN has been a leading force in the African American quilting community. WCQN’s longstanding efforts to educate impoverished and marginalized communities of quilt artists are unprecedented. The most current initiative, to teach quilt makers how to market their work, is yet another example of WCQN’s progressive leadership in helping underserved artists to help themselves. WCQN has a proven track record of accomplishing this while educating larger societies about rich artistic heritages often overlooked and underappreciated.
Our “master” artists are working with students in the Visual Voices Project, who are producing compelling work and gaining self-esteem through selling and exhibiting the quilts they make. The Visual Voices Project, a national project active in eight states, has received critical acclaim from the National Endowment for the Arts, Ohio Arts Council, Girl Scouts of American and the National Arts Education Association.
In 2014, working in partnership with Michigan State University Museum, WCQN worked with quilters from South Africa to make quilts for the exhibit Conscience of the Human Spirit: The Life of Nelson Mandela. The touring exhibition opened in Johannesburg with 30 WCQN quilters in attendance.
All services sponsored by Women of Color Quilters Network are strictly voluntary, and supplies and classroom spaces are donated. WCQN has no paid staff. Since its inception WCQN has managed to accomplish its mission with little money, and continue to add new classes each year, produce critically acclaimed museum exhibitions, teach school children and provide an avenue for its members to sell their work in order to sustain themselves.