Dr. Joan M.E. Gaither

story quilts Severn, Maryland
Photo Credit: photo courtesy of artist

From emancipation in Maryland, to life as a young woman in the 1960s, to Black watermen of the Chesapeake—the story quilts of Dr. Joan Gaither tell powerful biographical stories of her life, the lives of those around her, and the lives of those who came before her. An artist, educator, and 2017 Maryland Heritage Award winner, Dr. Gaither is a master at interpreting autobiographical and community stories through multimedia quilts—sometimes on her own, and often with the assistance and vision of whole communities.

“I am a native Baltimorean with a history of helping to integrate local schools and businesses during the Civil Rights Movement, receiving a B.S. degree from Morgan University (an historic Black College) in 1965 and my Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1998. Finishing the dissertation was certainly a career highlight, but even a greater feeling of accomplishment came when the dissertation was voted “Outstanding Dissertation for 1998 in Educational Research at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.” I continue to strive for that “Perpetual Energy Source Award” that honored my ability to model and facilitate intergenerational participation in art education, public schools, and community arts partnerships.”

“As a fiber artist and documentary story quilter, my work centers on community collaborations and quilting workshops designed to encourage participants to research and celebrate their own personal histories and stories. I feel a sense of urgency and passion that drives me to capture the oral histories and memories from our aging storytellers and preserve them in my quilts so they will live on.”

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