The daily wanderings of Texas Folklife . . .
Yesterday I found myself looking at homemade quilts at a bank n Bastrop, TX. Classic Bank, a community bank with branches in Bastrop, Giddings, Cameron, Liberty Hill, Rockdale, and Rosebud TX was holding a holiday party open-house event. On display were a number of wonderful handmade quilts by a variety of Central Texas quilters. Lenel Tamez, Classic Bank loan assistant and Austin Area Quilt Guild (AAQG) member, is a long-time quilter and former quilting instructor. Several of her quilts were on display, along with quilts with individual patches made by a team of quilters at workshops dating from 1990. I was surprised to learn that AAQG boasts over 1,000 members, but Lenel was quick to tell me that while many people perceive handmade quilting to be a "dying art", there are in fact large thriving communities of quilters across Texas and the US. I also found it quite interesting to see folk art on display at a bank of all places, yet in a way it all made sense. Without sloppily glossing over several important factors and considerations, allow me for a moment to babble about the hotly debated topics of technology, place and culture. A small community bank choosing to display the art of its employees and local community seems to illustrate how place and culture can and do remain connected. We operate in a global financial system: fractional reserve banking, high frequency computer algorithms and millisecond financial transactions between parties and counterparties on different continents ensure the pipes of global liquidity run smoothly. Bank customers can do a majority of their personal banking online, using mobile devices to send and receive money, purchase goods and services anywhere in the world. Besides the need to talk with a bank employee about more complex transactions or to secure home or auto loans, there is no need to step foot in a bank. ever. That's why I found it so interesting that the highly artistic, individual and communal expression of creativity found in the artistry of homemade quilts was on display at a bank in Bastrop. As Lenel explained, the homemade quilt display gave a reason for people to come to the bank, for customers to interact with employees who help manage their finances, to have a personal interaction that incorporates folk art appreciation into an industry that has become alienated from any sense of local community. Amazing - a community bank as a site that reminds us how place and culture are in fact still connected, where artists share their art and craft with members of the community, where the community is.
Related Texas Folklife program:
This experience reminded me that Texas Folklife produced a program on quilting several years ago. Texas Folklife's program 1999 "Quilts of Color: Three Generations of Quilters" featured exhibitions, demonstrations, lectures, and workshops about the tradition of quilting among sisters Katie Mae Tatum, Gladys Henry and Henry's daughter Lavene Brackens and granddaughter Sherry Byrd. This family of quilters has been baed out of Fairfield, Texas for the last five generations, since the end of the Civil War. This family provides a rare glimpse of an active tradition as it unfolded over time and within the life of the individual makers.