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Column #66

100 Years, 100 Quilts—Celebrating Arizona’s Centennial with Quilts

Summer Pepper Pickin' by Alex Gray.
Summer Pepper Pickin’ (55” X 73”) by Alex Gray. Alex Gray is a 12-year-old boy who was taught quiltmaking by his grandmother. He then, in turn, taught his mother. When he's not quilting, he races go-carts. Photo by Daniel Buckley.

Tucson, Heart of Arizona by Karen G. Fisher.
Tucson, Heart of Arizona (47” x 70”) by Karen G. Fisher. Photo by Daniel Buckley

Abundance - Sabino Canyon by Sandy Lambert.
Abundance - Sabino Canyon (47” x 48”) by Sandy Lambert. Photo by Daniel Buckley.

Cartoon artists commonly use a light bulb to depict the moment when a brilliant idea occurs to a character. Quilt historian Lenna DeMarco of Sun City, Arizona, says that several people independently (and pretty much simultaneously) had light bulbs turn on over their heads in 2009 when they all realized that quilts and quilting needed to be part of the Arizona centennial celebration that would happen in 2012.

The eventual result of all that cerebral wattage was the formation of the Arizona Centennial Quilt Project (ACQP). This impressively ambitious and highly successful three-year effort produced a multi-faceted legacy of quilts to make Arizonans justifiably proud and leave non-Arizonans awash in admiration.

Members of the Arizona Quilt Study Group and other quilters formed the basis of the ACQP and they partnered with the nonprofit Arizona Quilter’s Hall of Fame in order to raise funds and apply for grants to support their activities. The four-pronged project included the design and construction of an Arizona Centennial Quilt (see my last column.); a yearlong quilt exhibit at the Arizona History Museum; a Centennial Fabric line; and a statewide small-quilt challenge using the Centennial fabric.
While the Arizona Centennial Quilt is “the top jewel in the crown,” according to DeMarco, the keystone of the project is the exhibit known as "100 Years, 100 Quilts" featuring the same number of quilts as years of statehood. The purpose of the exhibit was to “allow everyone—not just master quilters—to express what they feel about Arizona and its history.”

DeMarco and her fellow ACQP executive board member and exhibit co-chair, Anne Hodgkins, came up with a set of guidelines for inclusion in “100 Years, 100 Quilts.” Each quilt had to be original (not made from a kit or a Block-of-the-Month); it had to be a certain size to accommodate hanging; it had to be made by a resident of Arizona; and it had to be accompanied by a story about the quilter’s relation to Arizona. Other than those few rules, the exhibit was open to everyone, regardless of age or skill level. The exhibit was not juried—the first 100 quilts that met all the criteria were the 100 that made it into the show.

The results were nothing short of remarkable. From a quilt made by a 12-year-old boy to those made by professional quilters and every skill level in between; from traditional patterns to art quilts; from impressionistic designs to pictorial representations of Arizona icons and landmarks—the collected works provide a wonderfully expressive view of the state from many perspectives.

Made possible in part through a grant by the Arizona Humanities Council, the exhibition was designated as an Arizona Legacy Project. The Arizona History Museum in Tucson agreed to display all 100 quilts in a yearlong residency during the centennial year. A grand opening of the exhibit was held at the museum earlier this year (a video of the opening can be found here. An accompanying book was written by well-known authors and quilt scholars, Helen Young Frost and Carolyn O’Bagy Davis, and is available for sale.

When the exhibit ends on December 31, 2012, the quilts will be divided into groups and moved for display at other Arizona Historical Society museums throughout the state. Dubbed “100 Years, 100 Quilts, 100 Days” exhibits, each group will be on display for 100 days before being returned to their owners. The goal is to exhibit quilts made by quilters from a certain region of the state at a museum in that region.

Everyone involved in making the exhibit a reality—organizers, supporters, artists, and museum personnel—have much to celebrate, as it truly is an unmatched statewide commemoration. Lenna DeMarco sums it up this way: “I’m not a native Arizonan, but after spending the past several years of my life on this exhibit and getting to know so many wonderful people, I could not be more proud of being a citizen of this state!”


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Archived blogs:

Column 149: Rosie’s Redwork
Column 148: The Quilt of Belonging
Column 147: Kanthas—The Quilts of Bangladesh
Column 146: Patterns
Column 145: Suzy on Carolyn Mazloomi's Groundbreaking Quilt Exhibit
Column 144: Texas Community Marks Juneteenth Sesquicentennial with History Quilts
Column 143: Maya Embroidered Patchwork
Column 142: Huipil Patchwork Quilts
Column 141: Tom Korn’s Military Medal Quilts
Column 140: The Return of Double Knits!
Column 139: Passage Quilts
Column 138: Home of the Brave Quilts
Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
Column 136: Christmas in July
Column 135: Trifles
Column 134: Deaf Initiatives—Communicating Through Quilts
Column 133: My Betty Boop Quilt
Column 132: Maura Grace Ambrose
Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery

See other archived columns here

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