Students and administrators gathered at the Timothy Dwight College dining hall on Sunday afternoon for the historic unveiling of two quilt projects designed by the college’s Chubb Fellow for spring 2018, Faith Ringgold.
The unveiling comes two months after Ringgold visited Yale to give a lecture sponsored by the Chubb Fellowship, a program run by TD that selects new fellows twice a year to hold a lecture about a topic of interest. During her visit, Ringgold led an arts workshop in which she designed two quilts and helped TD students and fellows sew them together. According to TD head Mary Lui, the quilts represent the collective efforts of Ringgold and 20 TD students and fellows.
The unveiling took place as 200 students and faculty members looked on during the college’s annual Berry Brunch. Explaining her work as a Chubb fellow, Lui introduced Ringgold before students removed the covers on the quilts. Also in attendance were Yale College Dean Marvin Chun, Assistant Deans Kate Krier and Rise Nelson and former Head of College Robert Farris Thompson ’55 GRD ’65.
“I am extremely honored that the quilts that we are now unveiling will be a part of Ringgold’s legacy of art,” Lui said. “It was truly a Timothy Dwight community effort.”
According to Lui, the quilts will be added to the college’s permanent art collection. While they will temporarily be displayed in the dining hall, it is not yet clear where they will be permanently housed.
Ringgold is an artist, activist and educator who has spent more than half a century telling stories about marginalized people through her artwork. Her portfolio includes a series titled “American People” that portrays the civil rights movement from a female perspective.
In the 1980s, Ringgold began a series of projects employing the medium of “story quilts,” which are rooted in the African-American communal tradition of quilting and storytelling and have been critical in connecting stories across many generations.
Ringgold told the News that she is excited to use the familiar medium of “story quilts” to inspire members of the Yale community.
According to Lui, the first quilt, titled “Family,” was designed to honor students’ ancestors who have given them “the strength and confidence to move through the world at Yale and beyond.” Each of the project’s participants chose people to commemorate and sketched out portraits to be transferred onto the quilt, Lui said. The quilt is made of 81 squares, with nine family portraits, each repeated nine times.
The second quilt is dedicated to Sylvia Ardyn Boone, the first black female scholar to receive tenure at Yale, Lui said. TD students, staff members and fellows worked together to draw, sew and paint the Kuba design — a geometric design created by Ringgold and her assistant Grace Matthews — on the second quilt.
Students and administrators interviewed after the unveiling said they are honored to be able to display the quilts in the college.
“It’s a huge honor and they are beautiful,” Chun said. “These will be here for over hundreds of years, and I feel very proud of this association we have with Faith Ringgold. I commend Timothy Dwight for coming up with this idea and procuring this beautiful piece of art.”
Thompson agreed that the quilts are beautiful additions to the college, adding that the dining hall now feels like a giant bed covered with beautiful prints.
Nikita Raheja ’20, who worked on the quilt during Ringgold’s visit, said she enjoyed collaborating with Ringgold, whom she had come to admire from her art history classes.
“[Ringgold is] just brilliant,” Raheja said. “She is such a fascinating person, and as an artist she has so much vision. The whole thing was just her vision and us working on it and it looks amazing.”
The Chubb Fellowship was founded in 1936.
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