Last week we had the opportunity to tour the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. This was perfect since I have been wanting to take the kids to an art museum and just haven’t gotten around to it. Along with this we were offered the opportunity to sit in on a Family Workshop. Every Sunday afternoon PAFA offers Family Workshops. If your children are in the Philadelphia School District the workshops are free. If you are in the suburbs the workshop is free as long as you paid for admission to the museum. It is well worth it.
Each week there is a different theme for the workshop. The week we attended was all about quilts. We learned a little bit about the history of quilting and how quilts were made. Since it is Black History month there was a focus on the history of quilt making among the African American culture. Did you know there are many old quilts preserved in museums across the country? Growing up in a Mennonite environment, we use to have quilting parties. Several times a year we would get together in a church basement and every woman would bring a dish for lunch. The table would be weighed down with all sorts of yummy homemade casseroles, preserves, and desserts.
Then we would get to work, the women sewing together quilt squares cut from yards of fabric or leftover scraps, and eventually, layers of batting and backing. As quilt layers were finished, the quilt would then be stretched across a quilt frame and we girls who until this point were playing and tending little ones, would be called to duty. We all learned from about 9 years old on how to knot and quilt. With knots being perfectly spaced and cut, to tiny stitches marching in straight quilted lines and designs, we stitched, knotted, and re-did to perfection.
Just as we made our works of art, long ago, women (and sometimes men) of every culture were doing the same thing. Many times African American women did not have large amounts of beautiful fabrics. They would gather scraps of fabric wherever they could, turning inferior fabrics into beautiful works of art, many times weaving their story into the design by making fabric “pictures”.
Some quilt artists paint their scene onto fabric instead of stitching together squares of fabric, telling a story that way. This is the technique we used in our workshop. 4. Finally we attached fabric squares, ribbon, buttons, and yarn to
finish each unique creation.
We had so much fun at the Family Workshop and I highly recommend any family get a membership to Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
118 North Broad Street
Sunday: 11 AM – 5 PM
Tuesday – Saturday: 10 AM – PM
Family Membership: $80/year
Under 12: FREE
PAFA also does free outreach programs. PAFA education staff visit community organizations to provide hands-on art-making projects for families that support our initiatives in strengthening family bonds through the arts. These programs are free for our neighborhood partners and an important part of our initiative to make communities stronger and to bring the museum’s collection into as many locations around the area as possible. Contact us for more information.