By Amy DiPlacido
Since the temporary closure of San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles in March 2020, many people have asked me, “Now that the museum is closed, what exactly are you working on day-to-day?” My time as an art curator (pre-pandemic) was usually spent coordinating exhibitions with artists and planning related public programs. Since March, we pivoted quickly, diligently producing digital content and extending our reach to fiber art enthusiasts around the globe. As we round the corner into our 6th month of online programming, I am happy to share virtual offerings to Textile Society of America’s followers—our new initiatives that made us wonder, “why weren’t we always doing that?”
Like many other museums, we began utilizing #MuseumFromHome in our posts, and even created a new page on our website, where you can find many of these new projects.
One of our most popular virtual programs includes “Textile Talks,” a weekly lecture series featuring dynamic talks with textile experts, in collaboration with six other international textile organizations (Surface Design Association, Quilt Alliance, Studio Art Quilt Associates, Modern Quilt Guild, and International Quilt Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska). Textile Talks are held online at 11am Pacific (2pm Eastern) each Wednesday, live via Zoom with recordings available afterwards. Our recent talks include “Tribute to the Civil Rights Movement: Quilted Swing Coats,” by Patricia Montgomery, based on an exhibit at SJMQT in Fall 2018, and “Women’s Suffrage—It’s complicated! Contemporary Artists Reexamine the Suffrage Movement with Pam Weeks and Alice Beasely,” based on the exhibition that was scheduled to be on view this fall at SJMQT, Deeds Not Words: Celebrating 100 years of Women’s Suffrage. This online exhibition debuted as SJMQT’s first trilingual exhibition, in English, Spanish and Vietnamese, which are the three most common languages spoken in San Jose, CA.
We also produce biweekly Artist Spotlight interviews that offer behind-the-scenes content on textile artists who inspire us. These interviews initially began as written accounts of how artists are coping with the restraints of COVID-19 but have morphed into a video format. Most recently, I had the honor of interviewing artists Mung Lar Lam, Pilar Agüerro-Esparza and Victoria Martinez.
We have recently launched a “Makerspace” page with tutorials to teach fiber art techniques and DIY activities for all ages. You can learn natural dyeing, knitting and embroidery through downloadable PDFs and occasional accompanying videos.
SJMQT is showing the documentary, “Martin Margiela: In His Own Words,” in partnership with Oscilloscope, the company distributing the film in the US, until October 28th. The film is an intimate look of Belgian fashion designer, Margiela, who never showed his face publicly or gave interviews, and was dubbed, “The Banksy of fashion.”
SJMQT’s newest public program is an experimental Digital Artist In Residence. Traditionally, AIRs receive studio space at the museum, but in the time of social distancing, all programs will be digital. From October – December 2020, SJMQT will unveil 5 digital programs, one being a sewn paper collage workshop taking place on October 17, 2020 with Christine Meuris.
Finally, the museum has launched a series of online exhibitions. An exhibition which was on view at SJMQT last summer, Gems From Our Past, curated by Collections Manager, Ashley Elieff, will be enjoying a second life through a new online format, showing bold and graphic quilts from the museum’s permanent collection.
The museum celebrated National Textile Day by prompting artists, museums and other cultural organizations to post a fiber art piece that highlighted text. We encouraged everyone to use the hashtag #TextOnTextiles and the social media platform of their choice to showcase a fiber art piece that highlighted language or symbols that communicated text. We then aggregated all of the submissions into an online exhibit.
To celebrate LatinX Heritage Month we are following a similar format of online submissions through social media using two hashtags: #LatinXTextiles and #TextilesHispanos. Fiber artists who identify as Hispanic OR anyone can use the hashtags to share a noteworthy LatinX artist that they know personally, or admire from afar.
I hope this article encourages TSA members to follow SJMQT on social media and to seek out #MuseumfromHome pages at other institutions. It has been remarkable to witness museums’ ability to navigate and quickly pivot in these challenging times, proving the resilience of cultural institutions.
Amy DiPlacido is a visual artist and curator based in San Francisco, California. As the Curator of Exhibitions at San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, she has organized numerous Contemporary textile exhibitions and programs. She has an M.F.A. in Fiber from Cranbrook Academy of Art and a B.F.A. in Fiber from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Amy volunteers with Textile Society of America as the Digital Content Editor for TSA News.