One of the potential hazards of loving art is the tendency to see it as something separate from everyday life—a thing apart, with no ability to function practically beyond what it stirs in us emotionally or intellectually. Sometimes that can be true, but often our most inspired works are the ones inspired by a practical need, like the patterned rugs of the Middle East and Central Asia. The African American quilts of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, fall into this category. Now hailed as pivotal works of modern art in museum exhibitions around the country, the quilts were inspired by the simple need to stay warm.