Ties that Bind: Quilting at the Clarke Africana Library

The first in this two-part exhibit, Precious Scraps: Toni Morrison and the African American Quilting Experience showcases the work created as part of the 2021 Toni Morrison Quilting Project, honoring Morrison’s exploration of the African American diaspora experience and paying tribute to the contributions to the art form by African Americans. In novels such as Beloved, Home, The Bluest Eye, and Sula, Morrison uses quilts and quilt making both as metaphor that imbue these everyday objects with a sense of identity, community, refuge, and healing, and as a storytelling device that takes the often-fractured lives of her characters and finds the whole. Morrison earned her master’s degree in American literature in 1955 from Cornell, and she received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. She died on August 5, 2019.

The second part of the exhibit, Pieces of Ithaca: A Celebration of Quilting in the Ithaca Community seeks to build bridges between Cornell University Library and artists of the Ithaca quilting community and proudly showcases quilts crafted by skillful artists who reside in Ithaca and its surrounding areas.

Throughout the city of Ithaca, quilt making is seen as an art form that effectively works to build community around an artistic passion for numerous Ithaca residents. Quilting holds strong as a part of Ithaca’s history and culture and can be seen in various cultural art events, libraries, and museums around Tompkins County. The John Henrik Clarke Africana Library joins with select Black artists of the Ithaca community to specifically showcase and highlight quilts that celebrate Africana artistry and culture. Various West African Adinkra symbols, which represent and symbolize important life events, proverbs, and cultural attitudes, take center stage in the quilts displayed.

Curated by Patricia Abraham, Africana Librarian at the Clarke Africana Library and Marcie Farwell, Gordon and Marjorie Osborne Textile Industry Curator at the Kheel Center. Original Toni Morrison Quilting Project was coordinated by Camille Andrews, former Emerging Literacies Librarian at Mann Library; Kofi Acree, Director of the Clarke Africana Library; Marcie Farwell; Marsha Taichman, former Visual Resources Librarian at the Fine Arts Library; Leah Dodd, Co-Director for Research Services at Olin Library; Cady Fontana, Librarian at the Tompkins County Public Library and Brigid Hubberman, Community Quilting Resource Center.

The image above is "Untitled by Andrea Gibbs. The image in the exhibit header is a detail of "Jazz" by Nadine Mills. The exhibit thumbnail is "Love Always, Timeless Toni Morrison" by Dr. Riché Richardson.