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Quilts from the Cuesta Benberry African and African American Quilt and Ephemera Collection

Kiss 1, Kiss 2
Faith Ringgold
Englewood, New Jersey
1987
Cotton
52” x 41 1/2”
MSUM 2008:119.19, Gift of George Benberry
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, all rights reserved Michigan StateUniversity Museum

Internationally known artist Faith Ringgold and quilt historian Cuesta Benberry were longtime friends. When Cuesta curated an exhibition of African American quilts for the St. Louis Art Museum she included a loaned Faith Ringgold quilt. Later, the Museum commissioned Ringgold to make a quilt for its collection. The Museum told Benberry that the commission was done in honor of her, as her exhibit had been the first African American quilt exhibit held at the museum.

When Ringgold later traveled to St. Louis, Benberry’s hometown, for the installation of the quilt she made in honor of St. Louis native Josephine Baker, she also brought this quilt as a surprise gift for Cuesta. Benberry said “It was truly a surprise, and a joyous one, too.”

Cuesta Benberry was one of the twentieth-century pioneers of research on American quiltmaking and was the pioneer of research on African American quiltmaking. She was a founding member of the American Quilt Study Group, was inducted into the Quilter’s Hall of Fame in 1983, was among the first honorees of Faith Ringgold’s Anyone Can Fly Foundation, and is a Quilt Treasure in the on-line multi-media project of Michigan State University Museum and the Alliance for American Quilts (http://www.allianceforamericanquilts.org/treasures/main.php?id=4). In mid 2008, Michigan State University Museum was gifted with the extraordinary Cuesta Benberry African and African American Quilt and Quilt History Collection. A fundraising campaign is now underway to make this collection electronically accessible and to support research and educational use of the collection.

By Mary Worrall


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