Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas


Native Son, Local Threads: Quilts Inspired by Richard WrightA Central Junior High School Project with artist Marla Jackson
  • Native Son, Local Threads: Quilts Inspired by Richard Wright
    A Central Junior High School Project with artist Marla Jackson
  • 03-Jul-2010 - 04-Sep-2010
  • Coat Room (329), Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

This spring, artist Marla Jackson worked with Michel Loomis’s ninth-grade English students at Lawrence’s Central Junior High School to create textiles based on the literature they were studying. Jackson teaches the students sewing skills and inspires them to create narrative quilts. The quilts on display here are the results of their work.

This year, to honor the writer Richard Wright (September 4, 1908-November 28, 1960), the artists/students drew their inspiration from reading the haiku poems that he wrote late in life. Wright was African American, and his powerful, sometimes controversial books included Native Son and Uncle Tom’s Children; much of his literature concerned racial themes, and his work arguably helped redefine discussions of race relations in America in the mid-20th century.

This July 11-24, the University of Kansas is hosting a national institute for secondary school teachers and graduate students called “Making the Wright Connection: Reading ‘Native Son,’ ‘Black Boy’ and ‘Uncle Tom’s Children,’” funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant. Maryemma Graham, KU professor of English, directs the program, which is sponsored by KU’s Project on the History of Black Writing with support from the Department of English, the Office of the Provost, KU Libraries, and HarperCollins Publishers.

Michel Loomis is an award-winning teacher and longtime faculty member at Central Junior High. Marla Jackson’s own story-quilts have been exhibited nationally, and several are currently on tour across the country. She is an active participant in the Women of Color Quilters Network, the umbrella non-profit organization under which she has conducted workshops with local students. She has earned grant funding from several sources to help support this work.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., in Lawrence has sponsored this quilt-making project with Central Junior High students.