Cultural Crossroads Quilters is a group of women who live in Port Gibson in Claiborne County, Mississippi. They work individually and in collaboration, producing a variety of quilting projects with Mississippi Cultural Crossroads, a community-based local arts agency that promotes community involvement, tolerance, and equality through the shared aesthetics of quilt making, community theater, and arts education.
Works created by Crossroads Quilters are sold at the Cultural Crossroads center and in galleries throughout the country. These quilts reflect a wide range of African American and European American traditions found in southwestern Mississippi, among them works with traditional block patterns and works made with strip and string construction techniques. The striking composition and high quality of these works has garnered attention from serious collectors across the United States.
When working alone, each quilter expresses her personal aesthetic inclinations, choosing materials, designs, and techniques that fit her unique vision. Collaborative quilts, however, are made in a variety of ways. While several quilters may produce different multiblock designs, others may strip the pieces together. The actual quilting together, binding, and finishing may be undertaken by many artists. This technique allows quilters to mix African American and European American traditions and produce expressive improvisational quilts that follow no strict pattern.
Quilting in Mississippi originally developed out of necessity as homemakers pieced together fabric scraps into bed coverings to keep warm. This utilitarian use of cast-off objects is one of the earliest examples of recycled art. Quilting becomes a decorative craft when the different elements of the piece are arranged in such a way as to increase the covering’s aesthetic effect.
Mississippi Cultural Crossroads is a unique organization that has garnered awards and funding from numerous government agencies, foundations, and arts and humanities councils. Members of Port Gibson’s black majority and white minority are largely racially segregated, and Cultural Crossroads is one of the few places where all area residents come together.
Since 1988 Mississippi Cultural Crossroads has organized a yearly spring quilt contest, Pieces and Strings, that highlights the work of the best contemporary quilters working within the Mississippi folk tradition. Since African American culture has long been ignored or underrepresented in this part of the country, Mississippi Cultural Crossroads has sought to promote the significance and potential inherent within the African American aesthetic. The exhibition displays African American and European American quilts side by side as a means of highlighting the accomplishments, aesthetic similarities, and differences of the two traditions.
- David Crosby, Quilts and Quilting in Claiborne County: Tradition and Change in a Rural Southern County (1999)
- David Crosby, Teacher’s Guide to Crossroads Quilters: Stitching the Community Together (1999)
- Roland L. Freeman, A Communion of the Spirits: African-American Quilters, Preservers, and Their Stories (1996)
- Kyre E. Hicks, Black Threads: An African American Quilting Sourcebook (2003)
- Mary Elizabeth Johnson, Mississippi Quilts (2001)