TINA WILLIAMS BREWER
Tina Williams Brewer is a teacher and dedicated resident artist for the Pittsburgh Center for Arts & Media Artist Residency Program in partnership with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. She has touched the lives of thousands of students and hundreds of educators over many years. Students are fully immersed in an art form by Tina and see how it connects to life and learning. Teachers are exposed to alternative ways of teaching in order to bring more creative learning experiences to their classrooms, and administrators recognize the ways in which the arts fully engage students and impact their learning across the curriculum.
In her artist residency work, Brewer is an exemplary collaborator who empowers all participants (teachers, students, and administrators) by providing them with guidance and inspiration while facilitating their creative processes with patience and insight. Students are encouraged to try new things, to persevere when ideas tumble around in their heads, and to be resilient when things don’t turn out quite as anticipated. It is important to her work that students, teachers, and parents all recognize the importance of women and quilts and their place in African American history and culture as well as the strength of collective vision while working together towards a vibrant whole.
Tina Williams Brewer is known for her artistic exploration of African-American history and the personal experiences associated with it. She uses symbolism, textile, and fabrics to create story quilts that are motivated by issues focusing on family, women and children, and the spirituality of the culture. She is the recipient of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Governor’s Awards for the Arts, Artist of the Year, 2018. Her work is represented in the permanent collection of The State Museum of Pennsylvania, the African American Museum in Dallas, TX, the Huntington Museum of Art in Huntington WV, the United States Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan and has been displayed internationally at the United States Embassy in Ghana, as well as more than 50 major venues across the United States, including Tampa Museum of Art and Science, Tampa, FL; Heinz Regional History Center, Pittsburgh, PA; African American Museum, Philadelphia, PA; Reginald Lewis Museum of African American Art in Baltimore, MD. In 2014 Brewer was named a Master Visual Artist for the Pittsburgh region and she was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in 2009. She is a member of the Fiber Arts Guild of Pittsburgh and the Women of Visions as well as an emeritus board member of Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. Brewer earned a bachelor of arts from Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio.
Tina Williams Brewer is also president of the Trolley Station Oral History Center, a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization dedicated to exploring both visual and oral history of the African American community through the creative process. The exhibitions and educational programs focus predominantly on issues related to the African American community: family, spirituality and cultural history. Brewer reimagines oral stories and histories into visual representations, in essence, a fiber art ‘lukasa’ or memory board that conveys the essence of a story in order to preserve the cultural past.
The heart of this work stands in Embracing Collective Cultures. The interpretation of the collectivity of cultures seeks to enlarge the awareness of the traditions of storytelling through the lens of the story quilt. By incorporating textile quilting traditions–that date back centuries–such as piecing, appliqué, and embroidery, the quilt continues the tradition of the recycling of cultures. The traditional textile traditions interact with the visual representation of a memory board, which seeks to preserve the past through the combination of numerous cultures within each quilt block.
Within the quilt is a juxtaposition of patterns, colors, and arrangements which ask the viewer to imagine and reimagine the properties that create the overall design. As a whole, the piece speaks to the power of collectivity that contributes to a whole. Individually each fabric choice, placement, and thread all convey the individual experience of existing inside of a culture on its own. The piece both celebrates the individual while it embraces how individuality contributes to the collective. Through a contemporary blend of traditional fabric selections and patterns, viewers will undergo the subconscious experience of finding themself in the schema of the whole. The desire to find self inside of a Whole is the gist of embracing collectivity and individuality, one that is rooted in the double consciousness experience.
The central design arc “Arc of Justice, Yoke of Love” refers to Dr. Marin Luther King Jr.’s speech “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” (National Cathedral, March 1968). Echoing the words of the 19th-century abolitionist and Unitarian minister Theodore Parker, King declared, “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Thus, the arc of justice and yoke of love work simultaneously toward peace for all people.
Within each block, there are cultural cues associated with the combined patchwork patterns. Which, refer to The Irish Chain, Indigenous Turtle, Mola, The Log Cabin, Dutchman Puzzle, Dresden Plate, Tree of Life, Stairway To The Stars, and Black Mud cloth as a connector and a supporter for each quilt block. The Sankofa bird–which traditionally represents returning to the past and bringing forward what is useful for the present–positions itself at the top of the quilt. The Sankofa stands tilted on one leg, simultaneously facing the past while looking forward to the future. The Sankofa stands as a representation of what we as people need to rise and move forth.