Kids often wonder if the subjects they study in school bear any relevance to the outside world. The Contemporary QuiltArt Association wants to convince them they absolutely do -- at least in the burgeoning area of quilt art.
Along with "New Work: Makers, Methods, Meanings", CQA’s 1994 exhibition at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, the Association established an educational outreach program called "Skills From School in Art" to show how quilting relates to science, mathematics, technology, social sciences, and language arts. The program consists of a multi-panel education wall as well as education and curriculum guides. When utilized in conjunction with an exhibition it also includes docent tours for kindergarten through twelfth grade.
Because contemporary quilt art, many believe, has been under-recognized and under-appreciated, CQA aims as part of its mission to educate the general public about the medium. What better place to start than with young people who have not formulated rigid definitions of art and quilting?
If people learn to appreciate more deeply the multi-faceted role quilts played in history, then that will lead to a greater appreciation of contemporary quilt art. That’s the belief CQA based the educational outreach program on. Promoting "efforts to integrate the history and the art of the quilt in the classroom" forms a major component of the approach.
"The kids need a vocabulary," said Stephanie Randall Cooper, project director for the New Work exhibit. "They’re going to get it with traditional art forms. They need to be introduced to fiber, too. Bring them into a spot like the convention center that’s so big and impressive and show them new, good fiber art. That’s going to influence them, and then they’re likely to believe that art includes fiber."
The education wall forms the nucleus for the program with three four-by-eight foot panels, each panel focusing on one aspect of the exhibit it was originally conceived with -- makers, methods, or meanings. The panels combine text with a variety of visuals -- colorful, informative photographs of quilts, clothing, and people; collages of materials and tools; and several sample quilts.
Related mainly to language arts and social studies, the Makers panel presents a history of the quilt and the widely various peoples who have used quilted garments. Then, narrowing the focus to North America, one portion displays photos of traditional patterns from colonial times, a Nineteenth Century quilt made by slaves, Amish quilts, and modern quilts by famous present-day quilt artists.
Related to math, science, and technology, the Methods panel shows ways a quilt maker can design and execute her quilt, from essential construction to surface embellishment. Basic tools -- the rotary cutter, ruler, and cutting mat -- are displayed beside examples of what modern technology offers the quilter -- color photocopies, heat transfers, and computer designs. Samples from several artists’ work exemplify various methods.
The Meanings wall, linked to language arts and social studies, examines what inspired us to make art. Sample quilts illustrate various sources of inspiration -- famous artists and authors and their work, events from everyday life, and ideas, memories, or dreams.
John Borga and his third-grade class from West Woodland Elementary School is representative of the many classes that have combined a classroom project with the CQA program. It turned out to be a great success. "I’ve taken kids to art museums, but never seen that kind of enthusiasm," Borga observed.
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