How? When was the GFR Tapestry Center established?

Gloria Ross, Rose Owens & Ann Hedlund

Beginnings

The GFR Center developed from a friendship between tapestry editeur Gloria F. Ross and anthropologist Ann Lane Hedlund. They shared an appreciation for handwoven tapestry’s expressive power and an interest in weavers from the American Southwest. Gloria Ross specifically wanted to link American and European tapestry traditions and to gain recognition for contemporary tapestry as fine art. Ann Hedlund contributed (and increased) her knowledge about Native American tapestry weavers.


In 1979 after a brief correspondence, they met auspiciously in a Gallup, New Mexico, bus depot at midnight. From that point, they traveled together annually throughout the American Southwest. They collaborated on a collection and national exhibition of Navajo rugs. During the last years of Ms. Ross’ life, they created the GFR Center for Tapestry Studies. In all they did, Ross and Hedlund found great pleasure in sharing their contrasting worlds. These encompassed art and anthropology, the urban East Coast and the rural Southwest, and historic European roots and contemporary American Indian innovations.

When the two met in 1979, Ross had worked for several decades, producing major tapestries designed by American artists and woven by European weavers. Descriptions of her professional activities appear this website’s articles about GFR Tapestries. In the late 1970s Ross decided to work with weavers from the American Southwest, where Hedlund was conducting fieldwork among Navajo families. Eventually, Ross collaborated with Native American weavers to develop a series of tapestries designed by painter Kenneth Noland (see, for example, the script of an exhibition, “Kenneth Noland: The Navajo Tapestries”).

Denver Art Museum, 1992
Denver Art Museum exhibition of the GFR collection of Navajo textiles, 1992

Gloria Ross and Ann Hedlund also assembled a separate collection of Navajo rugs, and Hedlund curated an NEA-sponsored exhibition which originated at the Denver Art Museum and traveled to five US museums from 1992 to 1996, including the National Museum of the American Indian in New York.

Emily & Ann Bookman with Ursula McCrackenFounding trustee Dr. Ann Bookman (m) with daughter Emily and Textile Museum director Ursula McCracken, 1998

Founding the Center

In 1995, when Gloria Ross discovered she had cancer, she became determined to perpetuate her interest in recognizing tapestry as a major art form. She established the GFR Center in the year before she died. In 1997, the founding Board of Trustees—Susan Brown McGreevy (president), Ann Bookman (secretary), Hal Einhorn (treasurer)—plus Michael I. Katz (attorney) and Ann Hedlund (director), held the first GFR Center meeting with Ross in her New York City home.

Gloria Ross wished to address both historic and contemporary subjects in programs uniting weavers, designers, scholars and collectors. The GFR Center continues to honor her vision.

Volunteers helping children learn to weaveOur First Decade

During its first ten years, the GFR Center has maintained a broad scope of activities. The GFR Center has not continued Ross’s business or collecting activities. Rather, we’ve followed her principled and impassioned attitude to sharing the marvels of tapestry with a wide audience. In all our efforts, we promote tapestry as fine art and tapestry studies as diverse, interdisciplinary pursuits.

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