African American Quilts: A Hidden Gem Celebrates Black History Month

The Indianapolis Art Center in Broad Ripple Village celebrate Black History Month with the Indianapolis art exhibit African American Quilts: A Hidden Gem. The Indianapolis art gallery features quilts from five African American women and will open on January 29, 2010. This month long Indianapolis event is FREE to all Indianapolis people.

The folk tradition of quilting has deep roots in African American culture. Some are able to trace the tradition back to African tribes who used brightly colored cloths for identification and to welcome guests. The African American tradition of quilting was born into the era of slavery in the United States. Slaves at that time would join together in fellowship to quilt for practical use. In addition, many quilts ingeniously contained directions along the Underground Railroad.

The new exhibit at the Indianapolis Art Center, African American Quilts: A Hidden Gem, follows a more local and immediate quilting tradition centered around the work and love of Indianapolis Art Center teacher Ruby Ballard-Harris. Ruby will show her own work in the exhibit and acts as curator of this extraordinary exhibit. Quilting is in Ruby’s blood. She explains, “My mother was an avid seamstress, quilter, knitter, crocheter, everything, and I was right there. So, I knew early in life what I wanted to do.”

Ruby showed promise at an early age, placing the majority of her time and energy into mastering fabrics. She even designed and sewed her 5th grade teacher’s wedding dress.” After receiving a Bachelors Degree in Home Economics and Fashion Design, Ruby’s mother discouraged her from further pursuing a career in fabrics and design. Ruby became a teacher, leading classes from Kindergarten to Home Economics. Eventually, Ruby earned a Masters Degree in Social Work from Purdue University. But Ruby never lost her desire to design.

Eventually, Ruby was hired on at the Indianapolis Art Center. In 1992, she began teaching sewing at the Art Center and started a successful business designing African inspired custom jackets. Ruby speaks to her inclination towards African designs, “Anybody can do European design, classical things, just regular clothes, but I have a love fro African fabric. And once I found ethnic fabrics, and then I decided I found my niche by doing jackets.” Ruby’s designs are called Ruby’s Raps. They are one of a kind jackets with a tailored look and beautiful buttons.

African American Quilts: A Hidden Gem at the Indianapolis Art Center is the first exhibit Ruby has ever curated. She says, “I just knew that the Art Center needed to be involved in something for Black History Month. I knew I quilted and there are a number of black quilters around and that would make a great presentation.” The average quilt takes two to four months. African American quilts are characterized┬á by large and asymmetric patterns and shapes, with bright contrasting colors. Each quilt generally shares some sort of narrative, be it about family or cultural history. Often done by freehand, the unique improvised style of the quilts make them extremely interesting.

For more information about this Indianapolis event, visit the Indianapolis Art Center’s official website. Don’t miss the opening of this wonderful Indianapolis art event in the Indianapolis cultural district, Broad Ripple Village. Check out the Indianapolis restaurants and Indianapolis bars nearby. Stay tuned to Fun City for all the latest on fun things to do in Indianapolis.

African American Quilts: A Hidden Gem
Opens Friday, January 29, 2010

Indianapolis Art Center
820 E 67th St
Indianapolis, IN 46220

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