The Discovery of a Forgotten Art

Students exploring the Mathers Museum will find interesting pieces of art, but one freshman discovered something special: the work of her own hands.

Student and Cox Scholar Laysha Hawkins found a quilt she had contributed to in the Sisters of the Cloth: This is Our Story exhibit at the museum. Hawkins was attending a Cox Scholar reception in the Mathers museum at the end of January when she discovered her work.

“We were allowed to free rein the museum,” Hawkins said.

Certain pieces stood out as she explored the quilting exhibit. “One of the quilts looked extremely familiar to me,” Hawkins recounted. The quilt Hawkins spoke of incorporated her first and only quilt piece she had ever made.

“My piece is a little janky compared to the others,” Hawkins admitted. The piece features two women dancing. It is one part of the quilt called Praise Dance by Amelia Culpher.


Praise dance is a popular form of expression in African American culture. “Whatever the spirit moves you to do is what you do,” Hawkins explained. The Sisters of the Cloth exhibit at the Mathers Museum displays additional quilts that portray the life of the quilters and the message they want to send.

The exhibit also includes a picture of the Sisters of the Cloth members. Hawkins recognized familiar faces, including Culpher’s, who was one of her mentors.

Poster board

Culpher was working on her quilt “Praise Dance” when Hawkins decided to attend a Sisters of the Cloth meeting in the basement of her church. The women invited Hawkins to create a piece for the quilt. They taught her how to measure the pieces of fabric and sew them together.

Sisters of the Cloth usually donates the guild’s works to families and the community, so Hawkins was surprised to see the display. “Who would’ve known that process would be shown in the museum?”

Quilts not only keep people warm, but they also are a form of expression. After creating her piece, Hawkins began to see quilting as an artistic way to show love. According to Hawkins, each quilt usually takes one month to create. They display difficult techniques that beg the viewer to look closer. While observing the other quilts, Hawkins said she noticed one with an abstract pattern that actually formed black women.


When asked what students can gain from viewing the exhibit, Hawkins said, “Students can learn how others deal with creative situations.” The Mathers Museum will be displaying the “Sisters of the Cloth: This is Our Story” exhibit until May 6, 2018.

Sisters of the Cloth Quilting Guild was founded in 1999 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Through their motto “Each one teach one”, They strive to preserve the art of quilting by teaching others the art form. Hawkins expected to watch the women work at the meeting she attended, but instead they let her participate in the process.

Hawkins is majoring in African American and African Diaspora Studies and minoring in Swahili. She is a Cox Exploratory Scholar who works as a peer coach in the advising office. Hawkins is also a mentor for the Black Girl Affairs program.

For more information about the exhibit or hours of operation, check the Mathers Museum website.

Mathers Museum

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