Culture

Quilt National ’21 Kicks Off May 29

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Quilt National is not only one of the pre-eminent contemporary quilt exhibitions in the United States – it’s also one of the most recognized exhibitions of its kind internationally. The biennial event has been hosted and organized by the Dairy Barn Arts Center since its inception in 1979, making it the longest running contemporary quilt exhibition in the world.

“Getting to see Quilt National is actually a bucket list thing for many people in the contemporary quilt world, and in a normal year we have people who travel across the country and overseas to see it,” said Holly Ittel, Exhibitions Director for the Dairy Barn Arts Center and Quilt National Director.

While 2021 isn’t exactly a normal year given the lingering shadow of 2020, Ittel and Dairy Barn Arts Center Executive Director Leah Magyary said that for the most part, Quilt National ’21 (which opens May 29 and will remain on display through September 5) will very much resemble past year’s events, with the addition of virtual programming.

Quilt National

“We see the changes that have happened over the last year more as opportunities,” said Magyary. “One thing that is really important about Quilt National is showcasing our artists and their expertise; their stories, and all of the work and effort that goes into the pieces they present. So, in many ways, I think our opportunity to do that is greater than ever before because of the virtual opportunities that have become so important throughout the pandemic.”

Throughout the summer, the Dairy Barn Arts Center will make workshops led by Quilt National artists available to the public on a virtual basis – meaning that anyone, anywhere, can learn from some of the leading artists in the field of fine art quilts.

Although the Quilt National exhibition itself will be open to in-person visitors at the Dairy Barn, prior online registration will be required for all visitors. A virtual version of the exhibition will be made available online, as well as a physical catalog of the exhibition that can be ordered through the Dairy Barn’s website.

Regardless of changes to Quilt National ’21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ittel said that one thing that we can count on is the often poignant response those who see the exhibition have been having since the first Quilt National in 1979.

“People have very emotional connections to Quilt National. I think it’s because when you hear the word ‘quilt,’ you don’t instantly think of ‘fine art.’ So, when you’re presented with these quilts that are very painterly or sculptural, it really surprises first-time visitors,” she said. “I also wonder if part of the reaction we humans feel to Quilt National has to do with the humble beginnings of a quilt as something that came out of necessity, and that it’s evolved into something that is a part of the fine art world.”

Find information on virtual Quilt National workshops and events, as well as how to register to view the exhibition in person, online now at dairybarn.org/quilt-national.