Treme Storytelling Quilt Project
by Ya/Ya Young Aspirations/Young Artists
New Orleans, Louisiana - The Ogden Museum of Southern Art is pleased to present the Tremé Storytelling Quilt Project, highlighted by the public unveiling of a quilt created by a team of 16 (sixteen) artists from YA/YA (Young Aspirations/Young Artists). The quilt, and other works from the project, was unveiled on Saturday, October 2, 2004, in conjunction with Art for Arts' Sake.
The quilt will remain on prominent display from that evening through November, 2004 in the lobby atrium of the Museum's Stephen Goldring Hall, 925 Camp Street, in the New Orleans' Warehouse District.
"The Ogden Museum is more than a Museum," says Mary Beth Haskins, the Public Relations Officer for the Ogden Museum. "The heart of our mission is education and bringing the arts to the community. This project allows us to do that. It also allows us to celebrate an important theme for the Museum - Sense of Place. What these young artists are creating is a permanent celebration of Tremé's Sense of Place."
The Quilt is comprised of four panels, each telling a different story as it relates to the history of the historic New Orleans neighborhood, Tremé, the oldest urban African American community in the United States also thought to be the birthplace of Jazz. One panel, which forms the core of the quilt provides in fabric a street map of the area. A second depicts the historic plantation that today is home to the African-American Museum, with a comparison to how it might have been depicted in a black and white photograph a century ago. A third panel celebrates the neighborhood's tradition of the Mardi Gras Indian. The fourth panel depicts a sample of Tremé's traditional architecture. Upon completion it will measure 12 feet wide by 9 feet tall.
The Tremé Storytelling Quilt Project is a collaborative endeavor between YA/YA and The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, in conjunction with a group of artists and mentors, including New Orleans artists Willie Birch and Gina Phillips, both with works in The Ogden Museum Permanent Collection. Natalie Keller, a fiber and metal sculptor, is the project's lead mentor, working with the artists daily through the entire creative process.
Other mentors included Fr. James LeDoux, pastor of Tremé's St. Augustine Church, restaurateur Leah Chase, Sylvester Francis of the Back Street Cultural Museum, quilter Cecelia Pedescleaux, and "Uncle Lionel" a community-folklorist.
YA/YA (Young Aspirations/Young Artists), Inc. is a non-profit arts and social service
organization whose mission is to provide educational experiences and opportunities that empower artistically talented inner-city youth to be professionally self-sufficient through creative self-expression. Founded in 1988 by Jana Napoli, YA/YA provides high school
and college students training in commercial and fine arts and entrepreneurial skills.
The Tremé Storytelling Quilt Project is the second in the YA/YA series, "Inner-City Threads," in which the young artists learn to create artwork using traditional methods of sewing combined with contemporary design. In 2003, YA/YA initiated Inner-City Threads with a summer fashion training program. Fifteen (15) YA/YAs spent that summer apprenticing to professional designers to learn the technical and creative elements of fashion - from pattern making and sewing to fabric treatment and fashion illustration. With the theme The Final Fit, the artists created clothing they'd want to wear if it were the last thing they ever wore. They modeled their finished products in The Ogden Museum's Stephen Goldring Hall during last year's Art for Arts' Sake. "Inner-City Threads" is also supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
This past summer, the artists worked with Birch, a resident of Tremé, in exploring the neighborhood's rich history, as well as exploring ways to depict that history through art. He also relayed stories about how slaves used quilts to communicate with each other, and how his own ancestors and others would gather to quilt, during which time they told stories of community.
Phillips, a mixed-media fiber artist, demonstrated to the young artists her method of "drawing on a sewing machine," as she is known for her creations using fabric, paints, and other materials.
Francis, Chase and Uncle Lionel shared their own personal histories of life in Tremé. Pedescleaux demonstrated to the young artists the art of hand-quilting, sharing her own stories as well.
"At first, some of the artists were less than enthused about the idea of quilting," says Rondell Crier, YA/YA's Executive Director of Programs. "They thought quilting was something that was old-fashioned. But eventually they changed their thinking. The challenge was for them was to think outside the box to add a different twist to a traditional process.
"Throughout the process we hope the artists will create four very distinct panels, maintaining their own artistic individuality," adds Crier. "But in the end it is about finding a common thread, which is an important tradition of YA/YA. It is about collaboration, with everybody's fingerprint on one piece of cloth."
In addition to showcasing the completed quilt in the Museum's atrium, the Ogden Museum will host a related exhibition of smaller quilts from the project, to be displayed at The Ogden Annex at Lee Circle, corner of St. Charles Avenue and Andrew Higgins Blvd.
"We are pleased not only to provide the annex as a work for the artists from YA/YA as they work to complete the quilt, but to provide a place for them to exhibit their other works as they relate to the overall project," says Ann Rowson Love, the Curator of Education for the Ogden Museum. "Part of our emphasis on education includes providing a gallery experience for young and emerging artists."
The smaller, individual quilts were created by the YA/YA artists in the early phase of the Tremé Storytelling Quilt Project, during which time they learned from Birch and Phillips the techniques necessary to create the works of art, including design, pattern-making and both hand and machine stitching.