• Sat. Feb 4th, 2023

By Megan Ford

The James Museum
of Western & Wildlife Art

Cynthia Lockhart from Cincinnati has created a quilt that is featured in a first-of-its-kind exhibit that explores Black history in the West with a timeline of pictorial quilts, “Black Pioneers: Legacy In The American West.” Lockhart’s quilt is entitled “Cool Jazz Hot Jam.” 

Why is it important?

The exhibition of 50 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, revealing the breadth of their occupations and achievements in society, religion, education and the arts.

This is the final exhibit to be curated by Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, founder of the Women of Color Quilters Network. The 50 quilts were created especially for this exhibition by the WCQN and have never before been seen.

The exhibition is on view at The James Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, through Jan. 8, 2023.

By Ryan Kasley 

The James Museum
of Western & Wildlife Art 

This first-of-its-kind-exhibition explores Black history in the West with a timeline of pictorial quilts. 

On view since Sept. 3, 2022, and until Jan. 8, “Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West” explores the path of Black history in the West with original pictorial quilts. These colorful, richly detailed works of art chronicle the arrival of Africans in the American West in 1528 through the Civil Rights Movement, bringing to life forgotten stories and lesser-known chapters in our shared history. 

Dispelling the myth that Black people in the old West were mostly cowboys, “Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West,” reveals the breadth of their occupations and achievements in society, religion, education and the arts. 

Quilts were chosen as the visual medium for this exhibition because they function to highlight the intersections of African Americans in the Western frontier while informing others about the art form and its important role in African American history. 

This exhibition is organized by The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art and Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, curator, historian and artist. The 50 quilts were created by the Women of Color Quilters Network especially for this exhibition. 

“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. 

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. Founded by Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi in 1985, Women of Color Quilters Network (WCQN) is a nonprofit national organization whose mission is to educate, preserve, exhibit, promote and document quilts made by African Americans. 

“The James Museum is proud to put forth an exhibition that explores the Black experience in the American West,” said Laura Hine, executive director of The James Museum . “These quilts and the stories they tell embody one of our core values: to amplify all voices of the American West, including those not often found at the forefront. We are so grateful to Dr. Mazloomi and the Women of Color Quilters Network for partnering with us to bring this vision to life.” 

The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art provides experiences that inspire human connection and transformation through art depicting the peoples, landscapes and history of the American West, and wildlife of the world.   

Dr. Mazloomi’s quilts have been exhibited extensively in venues such as the Mint Museum, American Folk Art Museum in New York City, National Civil Rights Museum, Museum of Art and Design, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Her quilts have been included in over 74 exhibits, and she curated 21 extensive exhibits of quilts made by members of the Women of Color Quilters Network, many of them traveling exhibits. Among the many exhibitions she curated is “Still We Rise: Race, Culture and Visual Conversations” that visually surveys 400 years of African American history. It is the largest travel exhibit of African American quilts ever mounted.