Behind the Scenes at an Iconic Quilt Exhibition

29 Nov 2010

The world of art quilting is partially defined by traditions that have existed since its inception and stood the test of time. One of these notable events is the exhibition “Quilts=Art=Quilts,” a juried show held annually at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Auburn, New York since 1981. This year, the exhibition features 96 quilts from 81 artists, and is on display until January 9th. I spoke with Executive Director Donna Lamb about this unique show, and how it has evolved over the years.

PE: The Schweinfurth has been hosting this exhibition for many years. Do you hold any other fiber arts or quilting events/exhibits?

DL: This is 30th year we’ve put on “Quilt=Art-Quilts.” Because of this exhibition, we’ve developed and expanded to offer some other fiber arts programs. We’ve realized over the years how popular quilting is, and we’ve been taking advantage of it. In 2003, we acquired the national conference “Quilting by the Lake,” a huge program that has put is in touch with many more quilters and teachers, and really expanded our reach in the field of quilting. From that, we’ve developed additional classes and workshops that we run at the art center, in surface design and other techniques.

PE: Who is drawn to this exhibition? Do you feel that it is primarily quilters or those interested in quilts specifically, or is it a wider audience?

DL: This is our most popular exhibit every year by far. And this past summer, we also had a Nancy Crow exhibition. Both of these exhibits drew art quilters and art quilting fans, but also people from all different backgrounds. And there’s an audience who has just come to look forward to it every year; people who aren’t making quilts, but who are appreciators.

PE: How has the exhibition changed over time?

DL: The show was originally called “Quilts = Arts = Quilts” because it came about at  a time when people were just starting to become more creative with quilting, and just branching out from traditional quilts. So it has always been a venue for people experimenting and doing new things with quilt making. But it has also retained traditional elements.In the last few years, it’s become more of  an art quilt exhibition, but our entry requirements don’t prohibit traditional quilts. I believe it is possible to have an innovative but traditional quilt, judged on design and line and composition. However, as we’ve become better known as an art quilting exhibition, that’s the kind of work we’re attracting.

We’ve also changed the entry requirements, and instead of jurying from actual quilts, we’re jurying from slides. This has opened up the exhibition to many more people around the country who don’t have to worry about the cost and hassle of shipping.  It’s really increased the number of entries, and now we receive them from around the world. It has also moved the show toward a more professional level; the people entering are more knowedgeable about having high-quality photographs and images to submit.

PE: Tell us a bit about the events surrounding the exhibition.

DL: For the opening weekend, we had a reception and brunch. Throughout the show, we have a series of trunk shows where we invite regional artists to give talks about and show their work. These are always very popular.

PE: Is there anything else you’d like to share about this show?

DL: It’s always fascinating to see how the show changes over the years, and to see if we identify any new trends. I would say this exhibition is a really great sampling of what’s happening in contemporary quilt making today: pictorial quilts, sophisticated surface design, examples of amazing machine workmanship, piecing, etc. It’s a great survey, and always rewarding to see it unfold every year.

Quilts (from top to bottom)
“Crazed 6 Low Water,” by Kathleen Loomis
“Stacked Mummy bags,” by Pat Pauly

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jabotquilt wrote
on 30 Nov 2010 8:18 PM

Hi Pokey;

Did you check out Pippa's blog, the comments under her 'Fabric Store Spotlight' post?


BBusby wrote
on 4 Dec 2010 10:46 AM

I was honored to have two pieces in the show this year, by all accounts it's a wonderful exhibition.

Thanks for all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes!

-Betty Busby