A quilt made by a prominent African-American textile artist and teacher was stolen during a burglary this month from the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum in Oella, where it was on loan.
The red-and-gold quilt owned by Joan M.E. Gaither, a former professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art, was missing after a break-in at the museum overnight on Dec. 19, Baltimore County police said. The burglar or burglars broke through a glass pane in a back door and threw a television, picture frame and a few items from the gift shop onto the floor.
The quilt depicting the contradiction of Maryland's "Free State" tradition and its history of slavery was hanging from the ceiling, about eight feet off the ground, said Steven X. Lee, the museum director. He said it was the first time the museum had been burglarized since it opened on a 142-acre park near the Baltimore-Howard county line 12 years ago.
Lee called the loss "devastating" but said he could not discuss the monetary value of the quilt, titled "At Freedom's Door: What a Strange Civilization Maryland Is." The predominantly red side of the quilt, which measures about 4 by 5 feet, shows an eagle lifting a length of gold chain and two arms raised toward the sky. The gold side includes excerpts of Maryland's 1860 "Free State" laws, including provisions on slavery.
Lee said Gaither made the quilt in 2006 and loaned it in July of this year to the museum, where it has recently been on display with an exhibition on the African-American experience in the development of Washington, D.C. He said the quilt was about to be returned to Gaither.
Gaither, whose website and Facebook page describe her as a "documentary story quilter," is a Baltimore native now living in Severn. She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The museum dedicated to African-American and natural history includes an exhibit on the life of Benjamin Banneker, who lived in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Known as the first African-American scientist, Banneker was a farmer, clockmaker, mathematician, astronomer and surveyor of federal territory.
County police are asking anyone with information on the break-in or the quilt to call 410-307-2020 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7-LOCKUP or to send a text message to "CRIMES" (274637).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun