Cynthia “Cindy” Friedman, an industrial designer, fashion designer and humanitarian who achieved renown for Art Quilts at the Sedgwick, biennial juried exhibits which she founded in 1992 that attract quilt artists from all over the country, died at age 68 on Sept. 29 after a brief but courageous battle with esophageal cancer.
Friedman's nationally exhibited work can be found in private collections and locally in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Infectious Disease Clinic and the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House. Admired by many in the local arts community, her quilts were exhibited at numerous national and international shows, including the prestigious Quilt National, and even hanging on display at the Atlanta Airport. She was the director of Art Quilt Elements, a juried international quilt show.
One of her “shadowscape” art quilts is currently on display at Gravers Lane Gallery in Chestnut Hill until Nov. 5.
According to Bruce Hoffman of Gravers Lane Gallery, who was the first juror at Art Quilts at the Sedgwick, “Cynthia Friedman, whom we represented, was a special person, and friend. Cindy was instrumental in The Botswana and the Art of the Kalahari, the show we put together for Black History Month, a benefit fundraising exhibition for the University of Pennsylvania's Botswana medical program.”
From 1990 to 2012, Cindy’s husband, Dr. Harvey Friedman, was chief of the Infectious Disease Division and founding director of the Botswana-UPenn Partnership, Center for Global Health, at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania. ran the Botswana program for many years.
“Cindy and her husband spent a great deal of time in the Botswana and Kalahari regions of Africa,” said Hoffman. “Cindy spent time with some of the women there, admiring their artistry in baskets, Batiks, and painting. Each woman struggled terribly to survive day to day. Cindy realized that with some funds to bring their art to the U.S., she could help the women create micro industries through exporting African crafts. With Cindy, we organized an exhibition of works that she hand-carried from Africa to our door in Chestnut Hill.”
Cynthia Friedman was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and had a childhood filled with sewing. She came to Philadelphia to attend the Philadelphia College of Art, from which she graduated in 1978. She later taught fashion design at Drexel University and handmade countless wedding dresses for family and friends (and for herself).
But she earned the most accolades for her signature “shadowscape” art quilts.
“'Shadowscapes' is the name I gave the art quilts I’ve created with lighting, colors and shadows,” Friedman said in a 2014 magazine interview. “There's something very deep in the brain that has to do with shadows, so it's just a passion with me. And when other people react to your work, it's a wonderful feeling.”
According to Lisa Friedman Felkins, Cynthia's daughter, her most prized role was as a wife, mother and grandmother. “In addition to her art,” Felkins said, “Cindy was an amazing ‘grammy’ to her grandchildren, selflessly devoting her precious time to nurturing an irreplaceable bond with them.
"Cindy made friends wherever she went and brought everyone joy. She was truly one of a kind, and the pain of her loss is indescribable,” Friedman Felkins continued. “My parents' motto was 'nothing matters more than family,' and Cindy lived every day as proof of this.”
Harvey Friedman told us last week that when he met Cindy in 1977, “We connected in a way that is hard to explain. Our relationship was magic from day one. That magic never ended. Our minds connected, which possibly explains why we were very attracted to one another. I am around many brilliant people as a physician-scientist at Penn, but Cindy is one of the most brilliant people I have ever met. Cindy was also kind, decent, talented, beautiful, good-natured and giving. She was a treasure.”
In addition to her husband, Friedman is survived by her children, Julie, Lisa and Steven; her grandchildren, Rachel, Sarah, Amanda, Jack and Olivia; her mom, Trudy; her brothers, Richard and Dan; and many other loving relatives. She was predeceased by her father, Skip, and brother, David (Carol), who also died of esophageal cancer in 2022.
A celebration of Friedman’s life was held on Oct. 8 at the Wayne Art Center on the Main Line. Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com