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DATE: Oct. 25, 2002

Quilts of African American Women featured in Nov. 22 presentation at UM-Dearborn

DEARBORN---Two distinguished African American quilters from Detroit will discuss their work in a panel discussion at the University of Michigan-Dearborn on Friday, Nov. 22.

The discussion, which is free and open to the public, will be held from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Lecture Hall C in the campus's School of Management Building.

The artists to be featured in the presentation are Carole Harris, whose quilts have been displayed in the Smithsonian Institution, and Lula Williams, who received the Michigan Heritage Award in 1997, among many other honors.

Deborah Smith Pollard, associate professor of English and Humanities at UM-Dearborn and director of the campus's African and African-American Studies Program, will offer a historical perspective. Pollard has contributed articles to a book titled "African American Quiltmaking in Michigan."

On a web site devoted to her work, Harris describes herself as "basically a designer and reorganizer of space and colors." A Detroit interior designer and third generation quilter, Harris says that, despite the nontraditional look of her works, she takes her quilting very seriously. "What I am doing with my contemporary designs is pushing the craft toward the edge from the inside outward. I'm pushing the quilt designs, motifs, traditions, and myself as far as they can go."

In the citation for her 1997 Michigan Heritage Award, presented by the Michigan Traditional Arts Program at Michigan State University, Williams is described as "a needleworker keenly interested in the latest techniques and patterns; an African American committed to conveying information about her heritage; a woman of faith who communicates her beliefs through her quilts; and an individual proud of being an American."

The UM-Dearborn presentation, titled "Spirited Creativity in the Quilts of African American Women," is sponsored by the campus's Women's Studies Program, in collaboration with the African and African American Studies Program.

Rashmi Luthra, associate professor of communication and director of the Women's Studies Program, says interest has been growing among scholars in the creative work done by women in areas that had been considered merely domestic chores, like quilting.

"For many women, these skills have been an important outlet for creative and artistic talents, when other opportunities were not available to them," she says. "The quilts made by these women reveal a great deal about the ways women understand and depict their lives, and the concerns, issues and sentiments of their communities. For African American women, the artistic creations have the added significance of articulating their perspectives in a society that has systematically marginalized their voices."

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