Kayla Robinson is a filmmaker and artist from San Antonio, TX. After receiving her B.A. in Advertising from The University of Texas at Austin, she began her career as an art director in New York and Silicon Valley developing integrated campaigns and award-winning films for top brands like Snickers and Apple.
Passionate about capturing authentic human experiences, Kayla harnesses vulnerability as a superpower and unleashes it in her personal work. Her latest film, "Quilted Education," celebrates her mother’s artistry and drive to keep Black History alive through quilting, which had its world premiere at the 2022 Austin Film Festival. In the film, Kayla interviews her mother, Karen Robinson, who weaves Black history lessons into her quilts. The story of the quilts, and of this mother-daughter duo, is a powerful lesson in the individual commitment to your community, your legacy, and your craft. Watch "Quilted Education" on PBS.org today!
For her Reel South premiere of "Quilted Education," series digital producer Heather Nunerley connected with the filmmaker and her mother Karen Hinton Robinson to learn more about the film.
This blog has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Heather: What do you hope people learn from "Quilted Education?"
Kayla: I hope people learn that no matter what is taught in school, no one can truly stop you from seeking knowledge and learning what you desire. I also hope “Quilted Education” can serve as a symbol of gratitude and remind people to be thankful for the lessons received from their loved ones.
Karen: I hope people learn the importance of the contributions made by African Americans to this country, in spite of the challenges and racism we have faced. Many of our significant contributions have been dismissed as not important or just plain excluded from history books. Why is that?
I made the quilt in 2002 as a creative method of teaching young people about history. I especially wanted Black children to be inspired and to strive for excellence in school despite obstacles.
Heather: Because it's your mother featured throughout the film, we largely get her perspective. Can you shed light on how it was for you as her daughter? What did you think/feel about your mom presenting her quilts to educate students and the community?
Kayla: I never would’ve guessed that my conflict in elementary school would turn into a quilt with a 20+ year legacy, but that is who my mother is. She is a lifelong learner who loves to share her findings. This particular quilt highlights Black individuals of great accomplishment including those who were firsts in their field. While my mother researched it was exciting to hear about her new discoveries and the lessor known stories she uncovered. As a young Black child, it was important for me to know my history was more than slavery. This quilt was (and continues to be) a physical representation of my ability to accomplish anything I set my mind to despite what I look like. The journey may not be easy, but anything is possible. I have always been so proud to watch my mother teach or assist her, serving as her Vanna White. She’s truly an amazing woman.
Heather: Does your mother still present the quilts? If so, where?
Karen: Yes, mostly in Texas. I have since made many more history quilts. My work has been displayed at the Carver Community Cultural Center in San Antonio, the Houston International Quilt Festival, and the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures. I have also been commissioned to create quilts for the City of San Antonio, St Philip's College, and the historic New Light Missionary Baptist Church.
Heather: What was the number one challenge in creating the film?
Kayla: The number one challenge in creating this film was getting out of my own way and trusting I had the skill set to create something beautiful in any circumstance. When the idea for the film came about I had freshly arrived back in my hometown of San Antonio, TX after a decade of being away. I was in a now unfamiliar environment so I wanted to test myself and see how quickly I could turn an idea into action before talking myself out of it (ha). After pitching to my mom and getting her approval on the project, I reached out to an old classmate for leads on a DP, and from there the rest of my amazing crew. (Don’t skip the credits.) From idea to pre-production to production was a couple of weeks and then we spent more time in post-making sure the music was just right. In addition to a personal tribute to my mother, I now know I’m capable of building a team and creating anywhere I go.
Heather: Were there any moments you wished you captured or could include? If so, what were they and why weren't they added?
Karen: I wish we could have interviewed some of the students who participated in the interaction 20 years ago to get their feedback.
Kayla: I wish we could have captured my mother presenting to students present day. Unfortunately, the film was shot during COVID-19 so there were no workshops scheduled and it would’ve been too difficult to set one up.
Heather: What is next for you? Are you working on anything exciting you can share with us?
Kayla: I am looking forward to directing more projects this year that shine light on the perspectives of women and people of color. I am also in the early stages of writing my next film.