Fiber arts can be a colorful thread in a tightly woven arts education. And the American Quilter’s Society, the world’s largest quilting membership organization, travels the U.S. each year to showcase the art form at six AQS QuiltWeek Shows in popular destinations.
When student groups visit one of the shows, which occur throughout the year, they can see more than 500 quilts on display. Many are award-winning and exhibit a variety of techniques, including traditional designs, like Lone Star and Log Cabin, as well as modern designs that use machine quilting and hand-dyed fabrics.
Student workshops and classes are offered on-site, and AQS Executive Show Director Bonnie Browning says the organization can assist tour operators in quilt-related itineraries for their groups. The classes are open to every age and are offered for all levels of quilters. Sewing machines are provided, and all-day classes include show admission for the day. Discounted show tickets and classes are available for groups of 25 or more.
This year, shows drawing an average of 15,000 people will pop up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Charleston, South Carolina, as well as its headquartered city of Paducah, Kentucky. This year marks Paducah’s seventh anniversary as a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts & Folk Art, one of only two in the country.
“The three- and four-day shows offer a variety of programming, including special exhibits of hundreds of quilts from the world’s most acclaimed quilt artists, workshops by renowned instructors, contests, and a merchant mall with the latest machines, fabrics, and tools for quilters of every skill level,” Browning says.
Quiltmaking originated as a utilitarian skill, she says, and its evolution as an art form has been recognized around the world for its historical, geographical, and political influences by mostly female artists.
“Today, quilting is a personal form of expression, and artists are pushing the envelope, juxtaposing contemporary, avant-garde subjects and materials with this medium. Quilts are one of the most visually compelling historical art forms in the world and are an important part of a well-rounded arts education,” Browning says.
Traveling with the show this year is a special exhibit, “The Bob Ross Cherrywood Challenge,” which features the work of 75 quilters who created a wall-hanging quilt inspired by lakes, mountains, and “happy little trees”— all regular themes in Bob Ross’ PBS show, “The Joy of Painting.”
Top photo: Expo center at AQS QuiltWeek Show
Photo by American Quilter’s Society