Stitching Together A Century of American Handwork with Erin Vigneau-Dimick

“The domestic arts are a very different way of art making, and I think it is important to bring this kind of artwork forward and into the gallery and museum setting.”–Erin Vigneau-Dimick

University Museum Executive Curator, Erin Vigneau-Dimick, and artist and staff member, Mandy Pedigo have been busy stitching together an exhibit spanning a century of American handwork. The exhibit, entitled Pieced, included an assemblage of quilts from 1860-1960 and was recently on display at The Edwardsville Arts Center.

With the exhibit, Vigneau-Dimick and Pedigo sought to highlight women’s work, which can often be overlooked as an art form. “It is not always about the story of the genius artist who lives in seclusion–the domestic arts are a very different way of art making, and I think it is important to bring this kind of artwork forward and into the gallery and museum setting,” Vigneau-Dimick commented. The exhibit closed out with a quilt show-and-tell, inviting people of the community to bring their handmade and heirloom quilts to the gallery and share stories with each other. “There are so many people in Madison County, Illinois who make and collect quilts. The people who came to the event were given the opportunity to view and discuss the quilts that were on display. Bringing local culture to the community and finding ways to integrate it–that is the kind of outreach that is part of our core mission” (Vigneau-Dimick).

Museum Studies graduate student, Tyler Swanner, was there to record discussions surrounding family histories and quilt making. “Preserving this information is not only important to the quiltmaking community and Madison County, but to all individuals–the exhibit revealed the massive role that quilt making and quilts themselves have played in the lives of women,” Swanner commented. The recordings were done in video format and will be uploaded for the public to view on Madison Historical, the online encyclopedia and digital archive for Madison County, Illinois.

Pieced fostered connections between the museum and the local arts, making communities and supported efforts for classes, students, and scholars to engage with the collections. “The museum is not just about storing objects–it is about making them come alive. This event was set up to create a record of these stories and we are hoping to expand on the project” (Vigneau-Dimick).

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