What matters to historians, artists, politicians, anthropologists, collectors, curators, scholars, ordinary folks, small children and, yes, to the people who make them? Quilts, that’s what, and if you don’t see how all these people could be involved, the nine-part television documentary series Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics will supply the answers.
The series was produced by The Kentucky Quilt Project, Inc., a nonprofit organization founded in 1981 to create quilt documentation projects. The episodes deal with everything from how quilts are made and valued to why people create quilts, to the history of textiles in quilt making, to quilting culture (one interviewee described it as “the greatest mass movement nobody ever heard of”). Series host and executive producer Shelly Zegart, a co-founder of The Kentucky Quilt Project, has been involved in the quilt world for more than three decades.
One episode showcases the unusual abstract quilts made by African American women in Gee’s Bend, a hamlet in southern Alabama. These quilts became a national sensation in 2002. Another episode deals with the scholarship of quilts, from the study of material culture to sociology.
The series began airing in the fall and will be available to PBS stations until 2014. However, if you’ve missed it, or if your station hasn’t shown it yet, the series is available on a two-DVD set. The discs, which include a number of exclusive bonus features, cost $39.95 and can be ordered from www.whyquiltsmatter.org.