Works of Art on the Art of Quilting: Twenty WPA Quilt Block Prints

Many people know the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as a Great Depression recovery program of the United States government that employed millions of Americans in useful public works like building roads, bridges, schools, and parks. In addition to large infrastructure projects, the WPA also hired historians and folklorists to conduct research, writers and librarians to create literacy projects, and artists, actors, and musicians to continue their creative activities in the public interest.

One small WPA program called The Museum Extension Project (MEP) employed curators, educators, and craftspeople in many states to create visual aids for the study of history and cultures. The colorful prints of quilt square patterns on display in this exhibition were part of that initiative. They were published in 1937 by the Pennsylvania MEP office in Penndel (formerly South Langhorne) as an unbound folio titled Quilts: Pieced and Appliqued.

Some questions to consider as you view the prints:

 ¨ Which quilt patterns do you like best, and why?

 ¨ Why might a government program choose to promote quilting during the Great Depression?

 ¨ What can the colors and designs teach us about the women and communities that made the original quilts?

Visitors to the Special Collections and Archives department may view the exhibition by appointment (859-985-3267) or on the weekly 2:00 PM Friday Finds tours between August 26 and October 28, 2022.


Berea College Special Collections & Archives and Hutchins Library Digital Initiatives