Response re Kathy Nida’s Quilt, Removed at QuiltWeek

This is the response I sent to AQS regarding pulling this quilt from QuiltWeek Grand Rapids. Someone complained that there was a penis on the quilt. There is no penis on the quilt. You can read more about it on Kathy Nida’s blog, which has good photos of her quilt and the development of the design.

TO: bonnie.browning@americanquilter.com, terry.guill@americanquilter.com

SUBJECT: RE: Kathy Nida Quilt, “I Was Not Wearing A Life Jacket” at Quiltweek, Grand Rapids

Hello Bonnie and Terry,

I am writing in regards to the quilt, “I Was Not Wearing A Life Jacket” by Kathy Nida, which was pulled from display at the Grand Rapids Quiltweek. I hope you will reconsider this decision for several reasons.

First, this was not a contest quilt, it was part of a collection on display, People and Portraits, a SAQA exhibit which had been presented at other shows and is scheduled for future shows. Any concerns about the quilts on display should have been directed to SAQA prior to scheduling them. You accepted the group of quilts and had shown them previously to the Grand Rapids event.

Second, from what we’ve been told, a single person complained about this quilt, stating that it contained a penis. It does not, which makes the removal of the quilt hard to explain and understand.

It is true that not all quilts are for everyone. I applaud you, in fact, for including quilts such as People and Portraits both to appeal to less traditional quilters and to show that quilting encompasses a very wide range of style and techniques. I hope you feel strongly that these quilts belong in your shows, and continue to display them. This benefits and educates all kinds of viewers.

What of the viewer who had such a strong reaction to the quilt? Perhaps several of show staff could have accompanied the woman back to the quilt to look for the offending part and to discuss her reaction and theirs. Have the conversation about what the show is all about and the importance of showing lots of different types of quilts. That’s part of educating viewers.

As someone who was involved in running a yearly quilt show, I was part of discussions about how to present groups of quilts with difficult topics. We provided some mild signage (some viewers may find these quilts disturbing and they may not be appropriate for children, please use discretion) and listened to feedback from viewers as needed.

If someone expressed a strong reaction to a specific piece, I would hope the response from your show would be to listen carefully to the person and then to explain calmly why the quilt was put into the show and why it was going to remain in the show.

I ask you to reconsider your decision to pull “I Was Not Wearing a Life Jacket” and keep it with the rest of the People and Portraits exhibit in future shows. Please develop a clear plan of response to future situations like this that continues to support the artists involved and which responds appropriately to viewers with concerns. This is certainly part of the mission of quilt shows and events, to educate and expand the viewer’s range of experience.

Thank you.

Mary Beth Frezon

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