*Featured photo: Quilts on display at the 2022 Gee’s Bend Airing of the Quilts Festival. Photo by Stephen Pitkin.
The 2023 Gee’s Bend Airing of the Quilts Festival takes place on Saturday, October 7, 2023, from 9 am–5pm in and around Gee’s Bend (Boykin), Alabama. The festival continues a long tradition of outdoor quilt display in Gee’s Bend and provides visitors with the opportunity to explore this vibrant artistic community that has given rise to generations of African-American quiltmakers.
Known for their bold, improvisational designs and use of recycled fabrics, Gee’s Bend quilts are among the most celebrated works of art in the world. Hailed by the New York Times as “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced,” quilts from this tiny community are now in the permanent collections of over 30 leading art museums.
“At this festival, you’ll get introduced to the quilters and to the lifestyle of Gee’s Bend. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get hands-on experience, from workshops to storytelling, and learn what our community is really like. We have a whole different language here, and this is your chance to learn it. A common phrase around here is, ‘You never meet a stranger when you come to Gee’s Bend.’ We can’t wait to welcome visitors to our community at the Airing of the Quilts Festival.”
Claudia Pettway Charley
Gee’s Bend Quiltmaker
Registration is free with a recommended donation of $25 to support the Gee’s Bend quilt making community. Additional fees apply to quiltmaking workshops and tours. Register at www.geesbend.org.
In addition to quilt displays and sales, the 2023 Gee’s Bend Airing of the Quilts Festival will feature:
Beginner and advanced workshops will give participants the opportunity to learn from master Gee’s Bend quiltmakers.
Exhibitions at the Gee’s Bend Welcome Center explore the history and contemporary life of Gee’s Bend. This year’s exhibitions include;
- A showcase featuring the collaborations between Marfa Stance, a British brand, and the Gee’s Bend quilters facilitated through a partnership with Nest, a nonprofit organization supporting responsible and creative engagement with The collaborations included 38 women from Gee’s Bend, ages 19 to 86, and already has plans for a third collection.
The exhibit will feature one-of-a-kind homewares, garments, and visual storytelling from the October 2022 Collection and works commissioned by the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
- A one-day-only display of the 1970s Rachel Carey George quilt featured as the key image for the 2023 Airing of the Quilts Festival. George’s “My Way” quilt was constructed out of Sears Corduroy fabric from the nearby Freedom Quilting Bee, which had a contract to manufacture pillow covers for Sears, Roebuck and Company in the 1970s.
- The History of Gee’s Bend from 1816 to the Beginning with the settlement of a cotton plantation by Joseph Gee in 1816, through the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement, to heralded exhibitions at major art museums worldwide, this exhibit will touch on key moments in the history of the storied community of Gee’s Bend.
Held at the historic Freedom Quilting Bee Legacy building in nearby Alberta, panel discussions will explore the area’s history of activism and involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.
The Foot Soldiers of Wilcox County
In this panel discussion moderated by Dr. Howard Robinson, Professor of History at Alabama State University, we will hear from the foot soldiers of Wilcox County during the Civil Rights movement about their motivation and resolve to peacefully march and protest for their rights.
Churches in the Civil Rights Movement
This panel discussion moderated by Dr. Howard Robinson, Professor of History at Alabama State University, will examine how churches helped to shape the movement’s message, inspire and organize its participants, and amplify its message of equality and justice.
Guided tours of the Gee’s Bend Heritage Trail, which commemorates the 10 Gee’s Bend quilts that appeared on US postage stamps in 2006, give visitors another opportunity to explore the community.
Live music will be performed by local church choirs and bands.
Local food vendors will provide a taste of some of the region’s best cooking.
Gee’s Bend Ferry Terminal/Welcome Center
12021 County Road 29, Boykin, AL 36723
Festival Grounds, Workshops, Tours, Exhibitions, Music, and Food
The Freedom Quilting Bee Legacy
4295 County Road 29, Alberta, AL 36720
Panel Discussions on community involvement in the Civil Rights Movement and Food Vendors Gee’s Bend is accessible by car (via County Rd 29) and ferry (Gee’s Bend Ferry from Camden, AL).
The organizing sponsors of the 2023 Airing of the Quilts Festival are the Freedom Quilting Bee Legacy and Souls Grown Deep. Additional sponsors include the Alabama Tourism Department, AL.com, RUNWAY, Southern Poverty Law Center, Artists Rights Society, Hauser & Wirth, Missouri Star Quilt, and That’s Sew Gee’s Bend.