Quilts from the American South are now on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

June 18, 2019

Growing up, Essie Bendolph Pettway was used to seeing the vibrant quilts her mother, Mary Lee Bendolph, sewed with the other quilters of Gee’s Bend, Ala., hanging over the cracks in their house to keep the cold winds out in the winter. “They had to do what they could to keep us warm,” said Pettway, who learned how to quilt as a child from Bendolph. “That’s how we kept warm, by quilts.” Bendolph’s quilts now hang in art museums around the country, including in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The museum recently acquired 15 quilts by artists from Gee’s Bend and neighboring towns from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, an Atlanta-based organization focused on preserving the work of contemporary African American artists in the South.