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Quilters of Gee’s Bend in Residence with UAB Arts in Medicine from Feb. 26-29

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Members of the Quilters of Gee’s Bend will lead quilt-making and sewing demonstrations and workshops in residence with University of Alabama at Birmingham Arts in Medicine from Feb. 26-29. (Adobe Stock)
By Shannon Thomason/UAB
Members of the Quilters of Gee’s Bend will lead quilt-making and sewing demonstrations and workshops in residence with University of Alabama at Birmingham Arts in Medicine from Feb. 26-29.

The artistry of the Quilters of Gee’s Bend has been acclaimed as one of the world’s most vibrant contemporary textile traditions.

During the residency, the artists will work with UAB Medicine to set up public sewing spaces in the UAB Women and Infants Center, The Kirklin Clinic and UAB Hospital-Highlands. The demonstrations will take place in the main lobbies, in addition to special workshops for health care staff and UAB Medicine patients and families.

At the end of their residency, one of their iconic quilts will be added to the hospital’s permanent art collection and hang in a main area for patients, visitors and health care staff to enjoy.

Growing research in the field of arts in medicine has demonstrated that incorporating the arts into the healing environment can reduce anxiety and perceived pain, provide a positive distraction, and reduce the length of hospital stay and need for pain medication, says UAB Arts in Medicine Director Kimberly Kirklin. It can also improve self-confidence, provide a sense of control and autonomy, and create space for social connection.

“Having the legendary Quilters of Gee’s Bend create art in the hospital will support AIM’s mission to enhance the healing environment through the arts,” Kirklin said. “It will also enhance well-being for patients, families and health care staff through creativity and arts engagement.”

The women of Gee’s Bend, a small, remote Black community in Alabama, have created hundreds of quilt masterpieces dating from the early 20th century to the present. According to “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend” book, the quilts carry forward an old and proud tradition of textiles made for home and family: Quilts transform recycled work clothes and dresses, feed sacks, and fabric remnants to sophisticated design vessels of cultural survival and continuing portraits of the women’s identities. Their masterworks are products of both tradition and innovation, older women teaching younger women the styles and standards of beauty. Each quilt is both the signature of the individual and the banner of their community. Gee’s Bend quilters are known for singing hymns while they work. In 2011, UAB’s Alys Stephens Center presented the quilters in the weeklong residency, “Common Threads: Quilters of West Alabama Meet Mud Cloth Makers of West Africa.”

UAB Arts in Medicine, a collaboration with UAB Medicine, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. This residency is funded by the UAB Hospital auxiliary and is supported by the Arts in Medicine Kirklin Family Endowment.