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Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West

Thursday, Dec 08, 2022

A first-of-its-kind art exhibit that explores Black history in the West is currently on display through January 8, 2023, at The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West explores the path of Black history in the West with a timeline of original pictorial quilts. These colorful, richly detailed works of art chronicle the arrival of Africans in the American West in 1528 all the way through the Civil Rights Movement, bringing to life forgotten stories and lesser-known chapters in history. Dispelling the myth that Black people in the old West were mostly cowboys, Black Pioneers reveals the breadth of their occupations and achievements in society, religion, education, and the arts.

Quilts were chosen as the visual medium for the exhibit to highlight the intersections of African Americans in the Western Frontier while informing viewers about the art form and its important role in African American history. For African American women, quilts have always been at the core of artistic expression, taking form in the social, economic, and spiritual lives of the women who make them.

The exhibit was organized by The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art and Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, curator, historian and artist. The 50 quilts on display were created by the Women of Color Quilters Network (WCQN) especially for the exhibit. Founded by Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi in 1985, Women of Color Quilters Network is a non-profit national organization whose mission is to educate, preserve, exhibit, promote and document quilts made by African Americans. With her own quilts displayed in over 74 exhibits and having curated 21 extensive exhibits of quilts, Black Pioneers marks Dr. Mazloomi’s final exhibit.

“Quilts and quilt making are important to America and Black culture in particular, because the art form was historically one of the few mediums accessible to marginalized groups to tell their own story, to provide warmth for their families, and to empower them with a voice through cloth,” said Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi.

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