Artistic Textiles Are My Livelihood
It all began while standing in line, with hundreds of others, outside the most beautiful pink building I had ever seen. I didn’t know where we were going or why we were there. I just knew it had to be very special since I was dressed in my pink mohair (Sunday!) coat and I was with my “Gammy.” We entered this special place, where we saw paintings, colors, and sculptures. I just wanted to stay there forever. Many years later, I found out we were there to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit that had traveled across the United States. And it was there where my love for the arts began.
I grew up in a family of creative people and in a home where the arts were always present. My mother is a classically trained pianist, and my grandmother was a needlework specialist and textile artist. The piano thing didn’t work for me, but my Gammy taught me knitting, crocheting, and hand sewing by design and example. She encouraged me to use my imagination, which is essentially permission to create. Well, I did. I went from designing elaborate paper doll creations to doll clothes that would make Barbie and Lady Gaga proud! I went on to design costumes for musical acts ranging from local funk bands to gospel groups.
Later, I moved into textile arts and began creating art quilts. My creations have been
displayed in venues as varied as living rooms to some of the finest museums in the state. I was also part of the Nebraska Arts Council’s artist in residence program and proudly worked my way from one end of the state to the other, teaching students the art of making traditional African fiber art techniques contemporary.
Although I now work in the industry side of the arts, I still get excited at the colors, the smells, and the feel of fabric. My full-circle experience came a few years ago when I walked into that beautiful pink box again, the Joslyn Art Museum, to see one of my own works proudly displayed as the backdrop for guest lecturer Faith Ringgold, my hero, and one of the finest textile artists in the world. And I know my Gammy was with me that day as well.
As Heritage Arts Manager for the Nebraska Arts Council, Deborah Teamer Bunting oversees the programs and services directed to Nebraska’s arts organizations or nonprofit community and volunteer organizations that primarily serve or are composed of people of color. Deborah first came to the NAC as an artist-in-residence. While working as a textile
artist, she traveled the Midwest conducting residencies using contemporary techniques to teach traditional African textile design. Deborah’s past employment has included working freelance as an artist for organizations including Joslyn Art Museum, Museum of Nebraska Art and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. Her works range from exhibitions to serving as a lead artist for the Bemis Mural Project. Born and raised in Omaha, the arts were a powerful influence in her home. While at the NAC, Deborah has worked on special projects and initiatives including Soon Come: The Art of Contemporary Jamaica and most recently, the Latino Arts Initiative.