Lucy T. Pettway (born 1921). Snowball, (quiltmaker’s name), c. 1950, cotton, corduroy, cotton sacking material, 83" x 85", The Collection of the Tinwood Alliance.
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The Quilts of Gee’s Bend
Grand Gallery, The Bill L. Harbert Gallery, Gallery C, The Noel and
Kathryn Dickinson Wadsworth Gallery, Chi Omega–Hargis Gallery
SEPTEMBER 11 through DECEMBER 4, 2005

Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Tinwood Alliance, Atlanta, this exhibition presents 70 quilts created by four generations of artists from the isolated community of Gee's Bend, Alabama. After its debut in Houston in 2002, The Quilts of Gee's Bend embarked on a nationwide, twelve-city tour that has garnered unprecedented acclaim. Created from the 1920s to the 1990s, these quilts of exceptional artistry pass on remarkable stories of survival and independence. The quilts are from the collection of the Tinwood Alliance, a nonprofit foundation supporting African-American vernacular art.

An Extraordinary Past
Gee's Bend is a small rural community of about 750 nestled into a curve in the Alabama River thirty miles southwest of Selma. Bounded by water on three sides, this remote hamlet was practically cut off from modern society for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, until regular ferry service made the region accessible in the late 1960s.

The long-isolated enclave was named after Joseph Gee, the first white man to stake a claim there in the early 1800s. Around 1850 the Gee family sold their plantation to Mark Pettway. Today, the inhabitants of Gee's Bend are descendants of enslaved African Americans on the former Pettway plantation. The Benders’ unique history contributed to a strong sense of group identity still extant today, while also allowing for the unusually cohesive artistic tradition of quiltmaking to develop and be carefully nurtured from generation to generation. The nation first became aware of Gee’s Bend in the 1930s when the Farm Security Administration sent photographers to chronicle poverty in the rural South. The town experienced another brief stint of notoriety during the civil rights movement when the Freedom Quilting Bee was organized. Later, in 1998, William Arnett of the Atlanta-based Tinwood Alliance discovered the masterful quilts the women of Gee's Bend had produced, and began introducing their work to prominent museum curators.

See the Quilts of Gee’s Bend web site for additional information

The Quilts of Gee’s Bend has been organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Tinwood Alliance, Atlanta.

The Quilts of Gee's Bend is gratefully sponsored by: Regions Bank, Lee County and the Marriott, Auburn Opelika Hotel & Conference Center at Grand National

Annie Mae Young (born 1928). Work-clothes quilt with center medallion of strips, 1976, 108" x 77", The Collection of the Tinwood Alliance.
Jessie T. Pettway (born 1929). Bars and string-pieced columns, 1950s, cotton, The Collection of the Tinwood Alliance.