In the words of our President Trump, the National African American Quilt Convention is going to be “Huge.”

In the words of the event organizer Marla Jackson, “they (Lawrence) have never seen anything like this before.”

The first ever National African American Quilt Convention is Jackson’s dream come to life. One of the nation’s highly recognized Black quilters, Jackson attended arts events across the country, which often featured only a few workshops or lectures on quilting.

“I thought we can do better than this. So I pulled this together,” said Jackson.

What Jackson has “pulled together” is the largest gathering of African-American quilting standouts, exhibits of the works of Black quilting legends, and an opportunity for quilters and artists, beginners and advanced, to learn from some of the field’s greatest.

Conventions, especially African Americans ones, with lecturers and presenters of this caliber are typically the draw of larger cities on the coasts or somewhere down south. But Jackson wanted to bring the convention to Lawrence, her home town. Seeing the draw, recognition and potential economic benefits of the convention, the City of Lawrence, Explore Lawrence, Downtown Lawrence, Inc. the University of Kansas, along with other City and County organizations lent their support. She also found numerous friends and quilting organizations will sign on as financial sponsors.

The convention will be held Wed., July 12 through Sat., July 15, and Jackson is preparing for quilters and artists to take over this modest college town.

Biggest names in quilting

“We’re going to turn this town to art,” said Jackson.

The convention will spread across Lawrence, with lectures at the world class Lied Center; workshops sprinkled at venues across the city; and more than a dozen exhibitions of some of the nation’s top quilters at the University of Kansas’s Spencer Museum of Art, the Watkins Museum of History, the Lawrence Arts Center, and other Lawrence locations.

Faith Ringgold, the biggest name in African-American quilting, will kick off the convention with a lecture on Thursday evening. Ringgold may not have been the first to adapt quilt making as a contemporary art form, but her work has been a fixture in museum shows for decades. Her quilts and paintings can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum, just to name a few. A Ringgold quilt will also be a part of the quilt exhibit, “Narrative of the Soul,” that will open at the Spencer Museum during the NAAQC.

After securing Ringgold for the convention Jackson could have rested on her laurels, but she didn’t. The convention is packed full of the tops names in African-American quilting and art. It’s the kind of lineup that reflects the name and reputation Jackson has in the African-American quilting world.

Jackson may not be a Ringgold, but she is one of the most respected Black quilters in the country. Her quilts can also be found in museums across the country including the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Museum and KU’s Spencer Museum of Art. An active quilter for more than three decades, Jackson knows most of these quilting stars personally.

They are the most famous in the world,” said Jackson about her lineup of presenters and exhibit participants, and they’ll all be right here in Lawrence.

Many top artists will have pieces in the museum exhibits and some will present workshops. If you’re a quilter or an artists, beginner or advanced, you’ll find the lineup of classes outstanding and affordable. 

Promoted as a great course for beginners and advance quilters is Mask Time and Pathways taught by Renee Fleuranges-Valdes. Pathways is a quilt with a twist, using a fusible interfacing base. It is a no sewing method. There are also classes on creating portraits in quilts, scrap quilts, Victorian quilts, tri-weave mesh work, Indigo and Shibori dye, fast piecing, and scarf dyeing, just to name a few.

Jackson, also a historian, has managed to weave Kansas History into the convention. Kansas, a slave borrder state, is actually the site of a great deal of African American history. Lawrence was once home to Langston Hughes, and George W. Walker, half of the famous Vaudeville minstrel act Two Real Coons. Convention attendees will have an opportunity to take historic Lawrence tours which will have sites relevant to Hughes and Walker, and historic Civil War sites such as the site where the Colored Troops fought during the historic Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence.

Want to do some shopping? There will be a vendor’s fair with more than just quilts, expect handmade jewelry and even original clothing with an art and cultural twist. For those who like clothes, don’t miss the swing coats by master quilter Patricia A. Montgomery, who finds a way to work heroines of the Civil Rights Movement and quilting into absolutely fabulous pieces of clothing. An exhibition of her work will be at the Spencer Museum of Art.

We can’t cover everything here. You can see the convention’s complete list of presenters, workshops, exhibits and tours and fees at www.naaqc.org. FYI, tickets to some events will be sold individually. For example, individual tickets to Faith Ringgold’s lecture on Wed., July 12 will go on sale on June 30, for $25 each.

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