If Trees Could Talk...Story Told by Valarie Jean Bailey
By Jordan T. Robinson, Greenhill Intern
Pin It


In ArtQuest, we are happy to have the honor of exhibiting Valarie Jean Bailey's quilt work titled, "Trees, Friends on the UGRR". This work tells the story of the Underground Railroad, and of Harriet Tubman, who freed 300 slaves in the south in led them to freedom in the north. Below is a blog post written by Greenhill Intern, Jordan Robinson.


Black History Month is the celebration of the African American's contribution to the welfare of our country through culture, ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and social reform. During this time, we showcase the work of Valarie Jean Bailey, fiber artist from Eastern North Carolina. Displayed in ArtQuest, is the story quilt she constructed, called "Trees, Friends on the UGRR". Valerie writes:  

Making a quilt is like planting a tree

"'Trees' was created to help you tell the story of how trees are friends to runaway slaves (passengers) on the Underground Railroad [UGRR]. When you look at the panels, the story will unfold. Trees provided food, cover, shelter, and direction for those traveling the Under Ground Rail Road. They are shown in all four seasons, Winter; Spring; Summer; and Fall. Other 'friends' included free blacks, Quakers, and Abolitionists who provided safe houses and assistance along the way. Quilts that contained messages and maps in their designs were hung outside for passengers to read. The North Star Guided them by night as they followed the 'Drinking Gourd' (Big Dipper) in the sky. Harriet Tubman was the most famous conductor on the UGRR. She made 19 trips back south and helped to free 300 men, women, and children."  


Bailey's work has been exhibited before in The Gallery at Greenhill. She is a wonderful friend to our staff and we are honored, and proud showcase this work which is an exhibit in ArtQuest. I interviewed Mary Young, Director of Education and Community Partnerships, to discover more about Bailey's important involvement in ArtQuest's development and history. 

"Artists play an integral role in ArtQuest by sharing perspectives, methods and ideas and inspiring visitors to explore their own creativity," Mary explained, "When we met Valarie Jean Bailey through a teacher workshop we knew that she was amazing and asked if she would like to help us create a fiber station exhibit. In no time Valarie presented a small panel of what is now a larger piece which not only reveals the story of Harriet Tubman but brings in ecological ideas as well. The piece is entitled 'Trees, Friends on the UGRR' and so when students examine the work they are asked to think about the role of the trees in the plight of the slaves escaping to freedom.One of the most important things about ArtQuest is that North Carolina artists were, and are, involved in sharing their work and ideas, allowing children and families to be inspired and even use a technique or a medium in their own work."




And with that, we look forward to building more bridges to better understanding each other as people and our backgrounds through art and design. By this, we can build a stronger community that benefits everyone. - Jordan Robinson

Tags: Artist, Trees
Leave a comment:
Catherine Lamkin - Catherine Lamkin : This qult is awesome, Valarie Jean Bailey used a variety of mixed medium on this quilt, using photo transfer, hand made three dimensional leaves As well as giving me a new perspective on the importance of trees in the lives of so many people outside of the slave community. Thanks so much for supporting Valarie Jean Bailey and fiber artists. The last time I was there was when her work was exhibited and Raymond Dobbard spoke on "Hidden in Plainview"
Annie Watson - Valarie Jean Bailey is such a great artist, story teller and human being. She has more insight and passion then most people I have ever met. Her work is a colorful journey.