Quilters wave wares in Port Gibson exhibit|[4/13/05]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 13, 2005

PORT GIBSON – It was quite a fateful trip to the grocery store for Gustina Atlas.

Fourteen years ago, Atlas – better known as Mrs. G – had just retired after a career as a math teacher in the Claiborne County School District.

“I had nothing to do, really. I couldn’t see myself looking at television all day,” Atlas said.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

She continued, “I happened to be at Piggly Wiggly and I ran into Patty.”

“Patty” is Patty Crosby, executive director of Mississippi Cultural Crossroads, a local arts organization that has brought to the fore the skills of many area quilters.

The organization now sponsors “Pieces and Strings,” a monthlong quilt exhibition and competition. This year’s show ends April 30.

“The name reflects back to the women who said ‘Oh, I just took a few pieces and string’ and made a quilt,” Crosby said.

Crosby convinced Atlas to come to Cultural Crossroads’ headquarters on Market Street in downtown Port Gibson and join in the quilting. Turns out, she was a natural.

This year, one of Atlas’ quilts, “G’s Green String,” won the Shaifer Family Prize for Best in Show.

The event is in its 18th year. It grew out of a small, three-day show, at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Now it’s housed in the gallery at Cultural Crossroads.

Quilting has been associated with Cultural Crossroads since the late 1970s, Crosby said. Works by individuals and groups have been honored and featured nationally.

“Early on with Cultural Crossroads, I was taking the employment/unemployment survey for the federal government. Several women in the houses I visited were quilters,” Crosby said.

Crosby obtained a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission to pay people to teach quilting, which led to a small exhibit at Port Gibson Middle School. In addition to showing their own work students brought quilts from their homes.

“It was fairly clear to me that there was a magic about quilts in this community,” Crosby said.

It takes an expert quilter like Atlas six to eight weeks to make a quilt, “if I’m really smart,” she said. Quilts in the competition were judged on construction quality and the originality of the design.

“I’m a loud-color person,” Atlas said. Her prize-winning quilt featured bright bands of gold in the midst of green. “That is really not loud compared to some of the colors I’ve chosen,” she said.

Linda Sikes, a Lorman native who recently retired from a job as a librarian at Beechwood Elementary School, is one of several people who take lessons in quilting at Cultural Crossroads.

“They’re wonderful teachers. They’re so patient, even if you don’t know how to rock the needle,” Sikes said.

Most of the quilts in the competition are made by quilters in Claiborne Country. A few come from other parts of Mississippi, Crosby said. Winning quilts will be displayed at the Mississippi Museum of Art from May 14 to July 3.

Some quilts from Cultural Crossroads alumni are in folk art collections in museums around the country. For example, a doctor in New York bought 11 quilts, then donated them to the Michigan State University art museum, Crosby said.

Some of the quilts are on sale, with prices ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Quilts can also be commissioned through Cultural Crossroads, Crosby said.