Quilted art honoring Harriet Tubman adorns Philadelphia's City Hall
Quilts and other artworks are decking the hallways of City Hall throughout this month in honor of the life and legacy of Harriet Tubman.
- Axios spoke to the artists who contributed to the temporary exhibit about the meaning behind their works.
The big picture: This March marks Tubman's 200th birthday. While the exact date is unknown, the city celebrates on March 10, the day of her passing.
- The abolitionist, suffragist and humanitarian has strong ties to Philadelphia. She fled here after escaping slavery in Maryland, traveling back at least a dozen times to help others through the Underground Railroad.
Details: "Dreams of Freedom: The Threads That Hold Us Together" will be on display until March 31 on City Hall's second, third and fourth floors.
- Almost all of the 30 artists showcased are women, and the majority are Black.
- The exhibit was organized by the Sankofa Artisans Guild (SAG), with contributions from Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University Libraries and the Lest We Forget Museum of Slavery.
What they're saying: "Art can be an invitation to learn more about history," said Tu Huynh, the program manager for the city's Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy.
Artist Cassandra Gunkel said her work, "Greater Than Rubies," is primarily a critique of the proposal to put Tubman on a $20 dollar bill. The title, which references a biblical verse, nods to Tubman's Christian faith.
- "Who are we to say what her value is? Whatever her value is, it's greater than anything we can imagine," Gunkel told Axios.
Gloria Davis, another featured artist, contributed two works, "Harriet" and "Amina."
- And like Gunkel's work, the pieces elude to capital as an acknowledgment that slavery drove America's economic power, while questioning the public's idea of value.
Davis told Axios the former focuses on the life of Harriet, while "Amina" is the embodiment of Black people, particularly Black women in America — exemplified by her dress in red, white and blue — moving forward and continuing the fight for human rights.
What's next: Later Thursday afternoon, the city will host a celebration of Tubman's birthday at City Hall, complete with a cake.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include additional details about the City Hall celebration in Tubman's honor.
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