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National Quilt Museum's Stacey Watson Discusses "Say Your Piece - Black Women: Mothers, Martyrs, and Misunderstood"

 “Carry Me Back, Sankofa Bird” by Nicole Blackwell, a featured work in the "Say Your Piece" exhibit.
Nicole Blackwell, National Quilt Museum
“Carry Me Back, Sankofa Bird” by Nicole Blackwell, a featured work in the "Say Your Piece" exhibit.

The National Quilt Museum of Paducah's "Say Your Piece - Black Women: Mothers, Martyrs, and Misunderstood" exhibit closes next Tuesday, February 21st. Austin Carter speaks to the museum's Director of Equitable Partnerships, Stacey Watson, about the exhibit, its artists, and the importance of elevating Black women's experience with artistry, empathy, and education.

The exhibit is open during normal business hours of 10 am to 5 pm Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 pm on Sunday. "Say Your Piece" will close on Tuesday, February 21st. There will also be a Say Your Piece open mic night on Friday, February 17th, beginning at 5:30. The event is free, all-ages, and open to the public. Watson discusses the background and pieces of the exhibit below.

"This exhibit is a visual journey displayed throughout the art form of quilting," Watson begins. "It tells the story of how Black women have been viewed over the course of time through quilting from the quilter's perspective. They get to share their piece through this art form, telling the stories of what a lot of people do not realize affects a lot of Black women: maternal health care, police brutality, policies, politics, lynching, and thinking about how all of this has affected Black women over the course of time."

"When we think about what has happened and how Black women have put themselves in this position of pushing and fighting and marching, they're oftentimes overlooked, or their voices are not heard." Watson cites the exclusionary nature of the women's suffrage and civil rights movement of the '20s and '60s, respectively. For this reason, among many others, Watson says, "it's always a good time to elevate our voices."

"I am a Black woman," Watson says. "I often deal with these same types of issues—exclusion or stereotypes or micro-aggressions And I know that I'm not the only one. Oftentimes, when you are fighting for something or trying to make people aware of your experiences, you get categorized. You have to deal with those types of images and the reputation of what it is that you're trying to do. Sometimes it's very hard for people to understand when they're not walking in the same shoes that you're walking in."

"So, what is the best way to educate people about experiences that some people would never understand?" Watson continues. "You have to use primary sources, documentaries—you have to be able to talk to them about things that are uncomfortable. You have to be able to elevate people who are constantly fighting to be seen and heard."

"Say Your Piece" features a wide range of quilting techniques, subject matter, and styles. Some examples include the mother-daughter Lipker duo, Janda and Rebecca, who specialize in tapestry quilting. The Lipkers use photography to "project them on a quilt so that it can be displayed, capture the history, tell the story," Watson explains. "When you enlarge that photo, you're also enlarging the message of what it is you're trying to display."

There are also featured works by the Social Justice Sewing Academy, which include quilts and banners that "honor those whose lives have been stolen or people who have become victims, dealing with social injustice—talking about police brutality, domestic violence, and these quilters incorporate fusing and paint," Watson says. "Using paint on top of quilts to bring out color, using certain colors to represent the person whose life has been taken away."

Watson says the exhibit showcases a wide range of techniques and recognizable patterns that can be appreciated by anyone, whether or not they have a quilting background. "They can appreciate the art," she says. For more information on the National Quilt Museum and its "Say Your Piece" exhibit, visit its website. You can visit this Facebook event page or the WKMS Community Calendar for more information on the Say Your Piece open mic night.

Austin Carter is a Murray State grad and has been involved with WKMS since he was in high school. Over the years he has been a producer for WKMS and has hosted several music shows, but now calls Morning Edition his home each weekday morning.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
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