Local Library Exhibition Grows Out of Janay Kelley’s Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies Project

image of Janay Kelley sitting in front of a hanging quilt
Janay Kelley

Recent Rhodes College graduate Janay Kelley ’24 has curated the Threaded Legacies exhibition currently on view at  Memphis’ Cossitt Library, located at 33 South Front St. The exhibition is a result of a project titled “Threading Legacy: Artistry, Ritual, and Southern Black Women Lineages” that Kelley worked on in 2023 as a fellow in the eight-week Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies (RIRS).

Much in the same way that college students go abroad to absorb the culture of a specific country, the fellows explore Memphis and the Mid-South through field excursions, focused academic research, faculty mentorship, and more.

"RIRS was a perfect fit for me,” said Kelley. “The free-flowing and trusting atmosphere allowed me to dive as deep as I wanted to with my research. The faculty encouraged my curiosity and empowered me to learn for learning's sake.”

Kelley, who majored in English, continued her research beyond the program, delving into  textile and folk art.

image of J. Kelley in front a a quilt
Janay Kelley hanging one the quilts in the exhibition

Threading Legacies showcases magnificent quilts made by Black women quilters and acknowledges the quilts as both artifacts of personal and communal history and as vibrant expressions of creativity and identity.

Kelley, who is a poet, writer, filmmaker, said this about the quilts celebrating heritage: “Each of these quilts have a story. One belongs to a grandson; another keeps the pots from burning her hands. They are laid across beds, couches, keeping their bodies warm and our traditions alive.”

Threading Legacies runs through June 29.