creative:impact - Mother To Daughter, What Does An Artist Pass On To Another?

Feb 4, 2020

Margaret Parker with "Cornered" at the 2011 Windsor Biennial opening.
Credit Margaret Parker

Ann Arbor artist Margaret Parker grew up in a home awash in art and creativity.  She tells Arts Alliance CEO Deb Polich and WEMU's David Fair what is was like to be encouraged and inspired by her mother, artist and quilt-maker Pauline Parker, whose exhibition opens at the Milwaukee Art Museum in March.  Hear all about it on this edition of "creative.impact."

Deb Polich, President and CEO of the Arts Alliance

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.  In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of The Arts Alliance, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.

About Margaret Parker

“I see myself as an American, carrying on the tradition of building a New World.”

Parker grew up in an artistic family and has followed that path ever since.  In her art practice, she attempts to create metaphorical spaces where the artist and the viewer interact with the complex issues of our day.  Early work in music, dance, theatre, and opera led her to collaborate and cross media boundaries.

Her work has been shown nationally, in Canada and Mexico, and is in the permanent collection of the United States Capitol, the State Department Art Bank, the Maine Maritime Academy, the UM Rackham Graduate School, the Chelsea Medical Center, and many private collections.

Parker attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago during middle school, Bennington College, and received a BFA from the University of Michigan School of Art and Design in 1969.  She helped found the nonprofit Art Pro Tem in 1999 to show experimental art in nontraditional spaces in downtown Ann Arbor.  She’s worked for public art as a member and chair of the city’s Ann Arbor Public Art Commission.  She’s a member of the Women’s Caucus for Art, Michigan Chapter, and the current president.  She was on the national board of the Women’s Caucus for Art as Communications VP.  She lives and works in Ann Arbor, where her studio is above the family store, Downtown Home & Garden.

"Anita Hill" by Pauline Parker
Credit Pauline Parker

Modernist Quilts by Artist Pauline Parker Showcased in New Milwaukee Art Museum Exhibition

Press Release by Milwaukee Art Museum - Jan 29th, 2020 02:38 pm

The exhibition features quilts and wall hangings by the artist that showcase her expressive and narrative approach to quiltmaking.

Milwaukee, Wis. – January 29, 2019 – A new exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum presents colorful quilts and wall hangings made by artist Pauline Parker (1915-2013), who used fabric and stitching as a platform for storytelling.

Opening March 20, 2020, The Quilts of Pauline Parker features more than thirty objects that showcase her expressive approach to quiltmaking, illustrating how Parker transformed a traditionally domestic craft into one that highlighted current events, historical and Biblical figures, and her own travels and experiences.

“Parker’s works are a wonderful result of her training as a painter, her exquisite eye for pattern, and her ability to create beautifully cohesive compositions from disparate parts,” said Margaret Andera, Curator of Contemporary Art.  “The Milwaukee Art Museum has a long and rich history of presenting quilt exhibitions, dating back to the 1930s, and we are pleased to continue that tradition by presenting the work of this talented artist.”

"Birches by Moonlight" by Pauline Parker
Credit Pauline Parker

Parker studied painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but her work in fabric began in Wisconsin, where she moved upon retirement.  She initially worked with traditional patterns and used techniques she had learned from her mother and aunts, before expanding her subject matter, stitching more freely and exploring a less traditional approach to quiltmaking.

Many of Parker’s narrative quilts, or “fabric collages” as she termed them, resemble paintings in their construction, use of perspective and three-dimensionality.  Each quilt was inspired by a personal experience, a poem or a misprinted piece of fabric, which could often lay the groundwork for a story.  The artist layered fabrics and materials, including netting, buttons and shells, to build her compositions.  Parker made the more than thirty fabric collages featured in the exhibition between the late 1980s and early 2000s.

The Quilts of Pauline Parker runs from March 20 through July 19, 2020, in the Bradley Family Gallery, and is organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum and curated by Margaret Andera, Curator of Contemporary Art.

The McCombe and Pfeifer Families and the Gottlob Armbrust Family Fund in Memory of Helen Louise Pfeifer is the Presenting Sponsor of this exhibition.  Milwaukee Art Museum’s Garden Club is the Contributing Sponsor.

Exhibitions are made possible by the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Visionaries: Debbie and Mark Attanasio, Donna and Donald Baumgartner, John and Murph Burke, Sheldon and Marianne Lubar, Joel and Caran Quadracci, Sue and Bud Selig and Jeff Yabuki and the Yabuki Family Foundation.

"Courthouse" by Pauline Parker
Credit Pauline Parker


Gallery Talks
Tues, 1:30 p.m.
March 24, April 28, May 12
With Margaret Andera, Curator of Contemporary Art
Free with Museum admission, free for Members

Gallery Talk with Special Guest
Thurs, March 19, 6:15 p.m.
Discover the stories behind the works in the exhibition during this in-gallery conversation with the artist’s daughter, Margaret Parker, and Margaret Andera, Curator of Contemporary Art.

Stitch 2-Gather
Sun, 1-4 p.m.
March 22, March 29, April 5
East End
Bring your sewing project to the East End to sew and socialize with (and get tips from!) the guest artist. Museum admission is not required.

About the Milwaukee Art Museum

Home to a rich collection of more than 30,000 works of art, the Milwaukee Art Museum is located on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Its campus includes the Santiago Calatrava–designed Quadracci Pavilion, annually showcasing three feature exhibitions, and the Eero Saarinen–designed Milwaukee County War Memorial Center and David Kahler‒designed addition.  In 2016, after a yearlong renovation, the Museum reopened its Collection Galleries, debuting nearly 2,500 world-class works of art within dramatically transformed galleries and a new lakefront addition.  This reimagined space also allows for the presentation of additional changing exhibitions.  For more information, please visit


Margaret Parker Studio

Pauline Parker Art Legacy

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at