Bisa Butler to Give Ruth Ketterer Harris Lecture

Bisa Butler stands in front of a colorful quilt. She wears a dress with large, puffy sleeves and her braided hair down.
Bisa Butler in front of “The Warmth of Other Sons,” photographed by Giovanni Valentine.

Bisa Butler, an interdisciplinary textile artist whose works showcase personal and historical narratives of African-Americans, will give the Ruth Ketterer Harris Lecture virtually Thursday, March 18. The acclaimed artist, who currently has her first solo museum exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, will share a brief video walkthrough of her exhibition to introduce her work, then join in conversation with Gianofer Fields, the Producer-in-Residence at the UW Center for Design and Material Culture.

“Bisa Butler encourages us to think about textiles in new ways,” says Dr. Marina Moskowitz, the Lynn and Gary Mecklenburg Chair in Textiles, Material Culture, and Design and faculty director of the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection, which hosts the Harris Lecture series. “Her work draws on rich histories of fabric design, quilt making, portraiture, and even photography (which provides inspiration for her compositions) to tell multi-layered stories, both about her subjects—whether well-known African-Americans such as Frederick Douglass or anonymous figures from found photographs of daily life—and about the capacity of textiles to express history and culture.”

Ruth Ketterer Harris Lecture 2021: A Conversation with Bisa Butler

Thursday, March 18, 2021, 4:00 p.m. CT
Location: Virtual event, via Zoom
Tickets: Free, by registration

With questions, please contact Laura Sims Peck,, 608-262-3623.

For press, view and download high-resolution images here.

For related events, connect with the Center for Design and Material Culture, and subscribe to its free e-newsletter.


Colorful quilt with a lime green background and a quilted image of a man in glasses and a suit jacket in the foreground.
“Black Is King,” a detail of a portrait of Trevor Stuurman. 2021. Cotton, silk, velvet, lamé, and damask. Courtesy of Bisa Butler.

About the Ruth Ketterer Harris Lecture

Since 1992, the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection has proudly sponsored an annual lecture series in honor of Ruth Ketterer Harris, the collection’s first curator. The lecture series has featured a diverse range of specialists with broad public appeal including textile historians, contemporary artists, museum curators, scholars, and collectors―all of whom have contributed to an enhanced understanding and appreciation of textiles. The Harris Lecture is free and open to the public.

About the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection

The Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection (HLATC) is a teaching collection with over 13,000 textile artifacts spanning 16 centuries and 108 countries, making it one of the nation’s largest university-held textile collections. Thousands of pieces from the collection are available for public study, loaned to outside exhibitions, and more than 9,000 objects are viewable online. HLATC is housed in the Center for Design and Material Culture in the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Learn more here.