July 20--WEST CHESTER TWP -- For Carolyn Mazloomi, the art of quilting isn't just creating visually appealing images on fiber, it's a way to convey history.
The West Chester Twp. artist, author, lecturer and quilting advocate is being honored later this year by the National Endowment for the Arts as one of nine new recipients of the National Heritage Fellowships.
The NEA says Mazloomi and other honorees were chosen for their artistic excellence and their efforts to conserve American culture. They will be honored Sept. 17 at awards ceremonies in Washington. Mazloomi, whose work supports the stories of African-American history through quilts, is the 2014 recipient of the Bess Lomax Hawes Fellowship, named after the NEA director of folk and traditional arts who initiated the National Heritage Fellowships.
"Initially, when the person called, I thought it was telemarketers. I thought it was a joke," Mazloomi said. "In fact, I was ready to hang up."
When she realized it wasn't a prank call, the immensity of the award dawned on her.
"When you think about the National Endowment for the Arts and you think about that arm of the government that deals with our nation's artists and artwork on every level, it's really huge," Mazloomi said. "To get that honor because it comes from our government, it comes from our country, it's special."
On July 5, she collected a Lifetime Achievement Award in New York City from the Anyone Can Fly Foundation for her contribution to African-American history and art through her work with quilts. The award is given to scholars who have contributed to the canon of African American Art History.
"It's an honor to be recognized for my contribution to art history," Mazloomi said. "Especially as I looked at the list of recipients prior. I'd say about 75 percent of them are dead and gone. It's an honor to be recognized while you're still alive."
Mazloomi, who has been quilting for approximately 30 years, isn't solely an artist.
"I'm a historian and curator for African American quilts and that preservation, it concerns me," she said. "I feel that's my calling, to carve out a niche in American art history for African American fiber artists."
Mazloomi curated the exhibition "And Still We Rise; Race, Culture, and Visual Conversations," now on display through Sept. 1 at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The massive exhibit includes 100 highly-detailed quilts tracing the people and events that have influenced African American culture from 1619 until present day.
"And Still We Rise" is scheduled to travel the country for four years, appearing in various museums in Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
Earlier this year, NEA granted WCQN $30,000 NEA to support a book detailing the "And Still We Rise" exhibition.
Mazloomi donates to the network all the proceeds she earns from the quilts she makes and sells.
She already has donated the $25,000 NEA prize to a museum collection at Michigan State University to carry on the work of the Women of Color Quilters Network.
Founded in 1985, the group provides its 1,700 members with presentations, venues for sharing technical information, grant writing and other services.
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