Goodwin brings unique approach to FAMU classroom

Valerie Goodwin. Photo courtesy of The Studio Art Quilts of Valerie S. Goodwin.

The School of Architecture & Engineering Technology at Florida A&M University is home to a professor who is developing unique ways to enhance her students’ learning goals. 

Valerie Goodwin is an associate professor, artist, author and abstract quilter who has mastered using creative ways to express her professional life.

Goodwin was raised in Connecticut and studied at Yale University just a town away from her home. After she earned her master’s degree at Washington University in St. Louis, she moved to Tallahassee where her family had relocated. Many years later Goodwin is teaching college students architectural design using the artistic expression of quilt making.

“I tell my students that they don’t have to think they have to start out being original,” Goodwin said. “They need to know the traditions and things in architecture that came before and they can take that and make it their own.”

 She began developing projects for her students where they learned to use traditional quilt blocks to learn about pattern, organizational systems and color. After reading the Journal of Architectural Education publication, she learned how quilting could be studied to become diagrams for rooms and spaces in a quilt museum. This sparked her interest.

She wanted to do something artistic to express her architectural background and discovered fabric collage,which involves layering multiple pieces of fabric on top of each other to create a new whole. Goodwin took what she learned, made it her own, and is teaching her students to do the same.

She learned to sew at a young age, taking trips every summer to her grandmother in Alabama, who was a home economics teacher. She gave Goodwin her first round at the sewing machine where she made clothes for her and her three sisters up until she got to high school.

Without any intention on picking up the sewing machine again, Goodwin can now find her art in museums. Carol Ducey is curator of collections at the International Quilt Museum in Nebraska. She chose three of Goodwin’s quilts to be on their permanent display holding the world’s largest public collection.

“I was personally drawn to Goodwin’s work, and recommended her to our acquisition committee, as she was doing truly unique pieces, using maps as a means of expression,” Ducey said. “The linear quality of her work and the way the designs function as both a literal map and as a design of shapes and forms in formal compositions is masterful.”

It was a challenge in the beginning to get her students on board to the idea of quilting in their architectural design class. Many didn’t understand why cutting up fabric and putting it back together again was necessary. When the project was done, her student Jermaine Archer had a different perspective on designing.

 “She taught me a lot between all the basics of the architectural realm,” Archer said, who is a second-year architectural graduate student. “I always stay true to myself and don’t change my design because everyone else doesn’t like it.”