Quilt exhibition inspires poetry reading

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MONTCLAIR, NJ — Inspired by the Nubian Quilter’s exhibition of quilts, “Common Heritage: Uncommon Quilts,” at the Crane House and Historic YWCA in Montclair, the Montclair Historical Society, the Friends of the West Orange Public Library and West Orange Arts Council teamed up on Sunday, June 26, to host a poetry reading in response to quilts and the art and craft of quilting.

Organized by West Orange resident and poet Frank Niccoletti, also an educator at the Wight Foundation, and poet John Trause, director of Oradell Public Library, the poetry reading featured original poems by the organizers as well as Laura Boss, Elijah Brown, Catherine Cavallone, Erica Field, James Gwyn, Karen Hubbard, Barbara Krasner, Laura Freedgood, Ellen Rado and Peg Vassallo. Many of the poems, some of them centos, used the themes of quilts, stitching, needlework and other “domestic arts” as metaphors for relationships and life.

Conceived by Niccoletti on a visit to the Montclair Historical Society, the interdisciplinary events of the day were intended to be a model for collaboration between and among institutions.

“Because art knows no borders, a town’s institutions must set an example for its citizens by cooperating with one another and reaching out to institutions in other municipalities,” Niccoletti said in a press release. He added that additional research for the reading was carried out by staff of both the Montclair Public and West Orange Public libraries.

STEP Scholars 2015-2016 have published a commemorative collection of their own centos. Entitled “Common Heritage: Uncommon Poems” and edited by Wight Foundation STEP Scholar Minat Bahnasy 2013-2014, the scholars are donating copies of their limited edition anthology of poems to the Montclair Historical Society and the Nubian Quilters. Performer Erica Field is one of the scholars.

The quilt exhibit is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Nubian Heritage Quilters, an African American quilt guild dedicated to preserving its quilt tradition, used the Montclair Historical Society’s collection of 19th-century quilts as inspiration for modern quilts. The exhibit remains on display at the Crane House and Historic YWCA until July 31. Visitors are welcome on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. and by appointment by calling 973-744-1796. Admission is charged.