Artist Talk: Marla Jackson, "Tell Mama" Story Quilts

Lawrence Percolator

This exhibition of 10 quilts reflects the stories of notable women in Marla’s personal life, as well as personal heroes. Included in the exhibition are two story quilts never before displayed for the public. The works include:

Tell Mama


Middle Passage

Tina Turner

Celia Cruz

Marla Jackson is a world-renowned visual narrative artist and quilter with an art studio and teaching gallery, and is the director of the African American Quilt Museum and Textile Academy in Lawrence, KS. Marla is a community-based visual art educator. Her works have been exhibited in over thirty-five national and international venues, including the American Folk Art Museum, The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. One of her most famous works is part of the permanent collection, at Smithsonian's Anacostia Community. Her narrative quilts are inspired by the oral histories of her ancestors and the Kansas region. Her work has been featured in the Kansas History Society Quarterly, Threads of Faith, MS Magazine, Speaking Out of Turn Magazine, PBS programs, local and regional syndicated press, as well as exhibit catalogs. Marla's company, Marla Quilt's Inc. African American Museum and Textile Academy is an impetus for developing artistic skills, enhancing individual and communal expression and furthering intellectual awareness. Marla donates art supplies and her expertise to Liberty Memorial Central Junior High School, in Lawrence Kansas.

Marla Jackson: “Quilting allows me to access a place deep within my soul where absolute peace is present. I am a quilting poet, whose intention is to provide opportunities to challenge common beliefs, promote questioning, and to inspire others to change their world to be a better place for all people. Quilting has brought me to a greater understanding of my family history, as well as the broader histories of the African American experience. I am particularly drawn to stories and images depicting slavery and freedom, specifically as it resulted from efforts of the Underground Railroad. Often I wake up in the middle of night with my mind full of images. I immediately begin sketching what my mind’s eye conceptualizes. These midnight drawings are then realized through the quilting process. My desire is to continue to have opportunities to share my work, my vision, and our collective narratives and histories.”

Marla recently received funding from the Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council to create a dye garden and from these dyes; she made quilts depicting the story of Maria Martin, a slave-era quilter who lived in Lawrence in the 19th century. This project is called Turkey Red after the color of the dye producing a rich and incredibly color fast cool (blue-ish) red color for cloth. Working with students from Liberty Memorial Central Junior High School students, Marla created quilts that tell the story of Maria Martin. These quilts are currently on display at the African American Quilt Museum and Textile Academy. Please visit the website at for times when the museum is open or to book a tour.

The Lawrence Percolator is the project space of the Lawrence Corporation for the Advancement of the Visual Arts. LCAVA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing new art and cultural events to audiences in Lawrence and Douglas County Kansas. The Percolator is a community-based exhibition and performance space accessible to all members of the community. The Percolator is located at 913 Rhode Island St, in the alley north of the Lawrence Arts Center (south of East Ninth Street, between New Hampshire and Rhode Island). Look for the green awnings. The gallery space is open Saturdays and Sundays from 12-6 pm.


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