Port Arthur exhibit highlights cultural expression of African American quilters – Port Arthur News
Family heirlooms, history and artwork created from brightly colored African fabrics currently hang in the hallway of the Jefferson County Courthouse in Port Arthur.
Laura Casmore and Rhonda Masters are the quilting “sisters” behind the exhibit.
Casmore isn’t shy about letting others know that quilting isn’t dead — it’s very much alive in the African-American community.
“Because a lot of times you hear the African-American community say ‘oh, nobody does quilts anymore.’ That’s not true,” Port Arthur native Casmore said. “There are thousands and thousands and probably a million African American quilters. So yes, we do quilting.
Inspiration comes from everywhere.
Casmore stood in front of one of his creations, Nichie’s Hair Braiding, which featured a panel in the center with a woman braiding another woman’s hair. Bright orange and yellow and black and white are used in quilting. The name of the work comes from a woman who often gets her hair done, she said.
Jump At De Sun, another of Casmore’s works, shows two children doing just that – jumping into the bright, colorful sun above. This quilt, she said, was displayed in Tuskegee, Alabama.
Masters calls Casmore a mentor. She was captivated by Casmore’s use of African fabrics and imagery when she saw his work at an event and the two became friends.
The women exhibit their works with the Golden Triangle Quilt Guild, among other venues.
Masters still remembers the feeling of seeing the Casmore quilts for the first time.
“It hit my heart and I was like, ‘Oh my God,'” Masters said. “That’s why we encourage other quilters: show your work at the county fair, show your work at local quilt shows.”
Some may worry that others may not like African fabric, but Masters advises others to use it and show it off.
“You never know who’s going to be there and get inspired and you create new quilters,” Masters said.
Casmore knows her quilt style isn’t for everyone.
“I tell people that my quilt style may not win awards in the quilting world; but in the quilting world, it’s a prize, especially to me and in the eyes of those who like to see it,” Casmore said.
Perfection is not the goal, it is art.
“I want people to like what they see,” Casmore said. “I don’t want them to nitpick me and say, ‘oh.. that seam isn’t perfect.’ I want them to say, ‘oh I love this quilt.’ That’s what I want — that sparkle when people see my work, so they’re just excited by what they see.
And people are delighted with the quilts made by the two women.
Franny Griffin works at the sub-courthouse and marveled at the artistry of the hanging quilts.
“I think it’s wonderful that they brought this for all of us to learn about the culture and to educate us on how quilts are made,” Griffin said. “For me, each quilt brings something different to the exhibit and its style.”
According to their biography, Masters is a proud Port Arthur native who moved to the area with her family over 10 years ago.
She always loved sewing and quilting and was “inspired to learn these arts by her paternal grandmother, Blanche, and her mother, Phyllis”.
She became a member of the Golden Triangle Quilt Guild, where she met her friend and mentor Laura Casmore.
Casmore, originally from Port Arthur, has been a quilting artist for over 20 years. His work has been featured in exhibitions across the country.
“Family heritage plays a major role in the artistry of his works,” according to his biography.
Casmore and Masters, along with quilter Sharon Mooney, formed the National African American Quilt Guild, whose mission is to preserve and enhance the heritage of African American quilting and quilting.
The exhibit, titled “Sistah 2 Sister, a Journey Between Two Sister Friends Laura M. Casmore and Rhonda Masters” will be on display at the Jefferson County Courthouse, 525 Lakeshore Drive, Port Arthur, through February 25. The courthouse is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The sponsor is Jefferson County Commissioner Pct. 3Michael Shane Sinegal.