How did a remote area of Alabama founded by freed slaves, go from being intentionally cut off from the rest of the country in the 1960’s; to becoming an American icon featured on US postage stamps and inspiring designer women’s wear?
The Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective was founded to help the women market their quilts. Today some sell for more than $20,000, with the most affordable ones priced around $1,000 and squares around $30. After being featured on postage stamps in 2006 and in a second exhibition that year, the Gee’s Bend quilts became iconic symbols of American art.
Long before these quilts inspired Maz Azria’s Spring 2013 line of women’s wear; black residents began taking the ferry across the river to Camden to try and register to vote. Ferry service was eliminated in 1962 to halt this effort, and lasted for 44 years. “Lack of a ferry and an hour’s drive to Camden from the other side contributed to Gee’s Bend remaining isolated, and untouched, from the outside world.” According to Deep South Magazine. Ferry service was restored in 2006 and a Quilt Mural Trail was erected in 2008.
The story of these women and their quilts is a metaphor for the story of black art in America. Stay tuned for the next episode of State of the Arts when we will delve deeper into the story of Gee’s Bend.