Quilters honored as NEA National Heritage Fellows

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Alabama State Council has announced that three Gees Bend quilters, Loretta Pettway, Mary Lee Bendolph and Luch Ming, are being honored as 2015 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellows.

The NEA National Heritage Fellowships are lifetime honors presented to master folk and traditional artist by the NEA. The Fellowship is the United States’ highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

Barbara Reed, Alabama State Council on the Arts public information officer, said each year the National Endowment for the Arts celebrates master and folk artists that embody the strength and diversity of the national culture.

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The community of Boykin, Alabama known to many as Gee’s Bend due to its proximity to a bend in the Alabama River, is home to some of the most highly regarded quiltmakers in America. These include Bendolph, Mingo, and Pettway, three of the chief quilters from the oldest generation of quilters who represent this profound cultural legacy. Mary Lee Bendolph, Lucy Mingo, and Loretta Pettway’s quilts have been on exhibit all across the nation, including exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Described by the New York Times as “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced,” the quilts are known for their improvisational and inventive quality, often being compared to 20th-century abstract paintings.

The 2015 National Heritage Fellows will be honored in Washington, DC, at an awards ceremony at the Library of Congress on Thursday, October 1, 2015 and a free concert on Friday, October 2, 2015 at 8:00 p.m. at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium.