Ryan Chartrand

A nationally acclaimed local quilter will be giving a free lecture tonight in Chumash Auditorium.

Denise M. Campbell has quilts on national display and has been asked to display them at the Smithsonian. She is also Cal Poly’s associate vice president for student affairs.

Her slideshow presentation, titled “The Signifying Quilt: Preserving Cultural Remnants through African-American Quiltmaking,” is a part of the Cal Poly LEAP (Linking Educators and Parents for the Arts) program and is sponsored by the Central Coast Center for Arts Education and the San Luis Obispo Community Foundation.

“I’m telling stories with fabric and using quilts to pass my heritage down,” Campbell said. “I quilt to preserve my heritage and document my ancestry.”

A Smithsonian board member saw one of Campbell’s quilts put on display by the American Bible Society and thought that one quilt in particular “belonged to the public.” In fact, reactions to her quilt were so strong, the Smithsonian asked if her quilt could be added to its permanent collection.

“I turned Smithsonian down – twice – because I don’t think my quilts can help (break racial stereotypes) if they’re sitting in a museum,” Campbell said. “I want them to travel and be seen. I want their stories to be told, and that can’t be accomplished in a museum collection that is rotated periodically.”

Campbell will be teaching ES 320, African-American cultural images, winter quarter. Though her winter class has no open seats left, she will be teaching the course again in the spring.

“Quilting is a narrative work that tells the story of a culture,” she said. “I’m African-American, so I feel that it’s important to preserve my cultural images and heritage.”

Campbell’s heritage also seems to be in sewing. Her father was a tailor and her mother also sewed, so she has been sewing “all my life, since before I could remember.”

Campbell started quilting 27 years ago when she was pregnant with her first son. Her strong sewing background came in handy when she used the scraps from her maternity clothes to make her first quilt.

“This lecture allows parents, educators and students to recognize the benefit of the arts in the community,” said Susan Duffy of the Cal Poly Central Coast Center for Arts Education.

Lesson plans on quilting and integrating quilting into other content areas will be available free of charge to teachers attending the lecture.

For questions or information about tonight’s 7 p.m. lecture, contact Duffy at 756-2935.

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