Textile Artist Carole Gary Staples Commissioned to Create a Quilt Honoring Individuals Enslaved at Belle Grove
Belle Grove has hired award-winning textile and fiber artist, Carole Gary Staples, to create a quilt that will honor the more than 270 individuals who were enslaved at the plantation from the 1780s to the 1860s. This unique art piece will be a lasting memorial honoring these men, women, and children, and will introduce the story of their lives to museum visitors.
Hite family records include lists of the people they enslaved including their name, birthdate, and in some instances, their mother’s name. The Winchester Chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America is a partner on this project and its members transcribed the names and dates onto muslin quilt blocks. They also lead community stitching workshops where participants each stitched a name. Representatives from Belle Grove and the Embroidery Guild will be at Juneteenth celebrations at the Clarke County Fairgrounds in Berryville on Saturday, June 17 and at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester on Sunday, June 18 and attendees are welcome to come “make-a-stitch” for the quilt.
Ms. Staples, who lives in West Chester, Ohio, will create the final design for the quilt top, arranging the name blocks by families, wherever possible. She will select colorful African-inspired fabrics to enhance the design of the quilt. She said, “I am very happy and excited to be part of this important, enlightening project memorializing the significance of these enslaved people.”
With more than 30 years of experience, Ms. Staples work has been featured in museums and art galleries throughout the United States, Africa, Europe, and Asia and in numerous books, newspapers, and exhibit catalogs. In addition to solo exhibitions of her work, she has created pieces for exhibits that honored Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, and Desmond Tutu.
Her artwork largely consists of 100% cotton fabrics precisely pieced and embellished to create an image. Ms. Staples describes her art as having “a literal presentation but a figurative presentation and this intentional dichotomy evokes emotions and feelings of spirituality.”
“We are delighted to have Ms. Staples expertise on this project,” said Kristen Laise, Executive Director of Belle Grove. “Her creativity and commitment to high quality workmanship will bring to life our vision for an artwork that will educate and inspire for decades to come.” Support for making this quilt was provided by a grant from Crescent Cities Charities and a gift from Frederick S. and Christine Andreae.
Ms. Staples expects to complete the quilt top by early 2024 and will advise on how the quilt should be hand quilted. This will also be a community effort and individuals and groups will be invited to Belle Grove to participate in the quilting process. When completed, the quilt will hang on the wall on the lower level of the Manor House at the entrance to “Unearthing Enslaved Lives at Belle Grove,” which contains artifacts from archaeology done at the enslaved quartering site.