by Suzanne Labry
U.S. National Park Centennial Quilts
During the second half of the 19th century, national parks began to be established in the United States.
Photo Right: The collage photo used by the Park Service to advertise the 13 quilts in the National Parks in Quilts exhibit.
In those early years, each park was managed either individually or by the U.S. Army, and the results were not always good. Concerned citizens and politicians started lobbying for management to be carried out by a single national organization. This finally happened when the National Park Service was created on August 25, 1916 by an act of Congress.
Today, there are 59 national parks that preserve exceptional natural beauty, unique geological features, and unusual ecosystems, while also providing recreational opportunities for visitors. In addition, many national monuments—historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest—also fall under the management of the National Park Service.
In total, the National Park System comprises more than 400 areas covering more than 84 million acres in 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands. The National Park Service observes its centennial in 2016, and quilts and quilters are a big part of the celebration.
National Parks in Quilts is an exhibit of 13 art quilts that is touring 13 selected parks throughout the U.S. during 2015-2017. Made by FiberWorks, a group of textile artists from Nebraska, the quilts depict each artist’s favorite park or monument.
Photo Left: Susan Davis has designed a line of historic images of national parks and monuments printed on cloth for quilters.
Parks on the tour include, in order of exhibition, Homestead National Monument of America in Nebraska, Joshua Tree National Park in California, Saguaro National Park in Arizona, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii, Statue of Liberty National Monument in New York, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Virginia, Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota, Glacier National Park in Montana, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, Everglades National Park in Florida, and Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in Missouri.
Click here for a complete exhibition calendar.
Bozeman, Montana-based designer, Susan Davis, who, along with her husband Jack, owns American Quilt Blocks, has designed a line of historic images of national parks and monuments printed on cloth for quilters.
Photo Right: The book, Inspired by the National Parks, contains images of the 177 quilts made by 148 quilt artists to commemorate the Centennial.
Based primarily on vintage postcards in the Davis’ collection and rendered in the American Arts and Crafts style, the National Parks Quilts line features more than 1,000 quilt blocks available in different sizes. Commemorating over 50 different national parks and monuments with plans to add more during the centennial year, the line also includes national park maps printed on cloth.
Quilt-challenge initiator extraordinaire, Donna Marcinkowski DeSoto of Fairfax, Virginia, decided to follow up her popular “Inspired by the Beatles” art quilt challenge and exhibit (see All You Need is Love) with a celebration of the National Park Service centennial.
Answering DeSoto’s latest call, 148 fiber artists created 177 original quilts depicting flora, fauna, and landscapes found in the 59 national parks. A selection of those works is included in the traveling exhibit “Inspired by the National Parks,” which had its debut at the International Quilt Festival in Houston in 2015. The exhibit will continue touring throughout the United States in 2016 and 2017, and Schiffer Publishing has produced a book of the quilts.
“I am very excited about the book because it contains beautiful images of all of the quilts, and these are accompanied by heartfelt narratives by 64 National Park rangers and other employees,” DeSoto says. For more information on this project, to include the upcoming exhibit schedule and book news, the website is at www.npscentennialquilts.com.
As it enters its second century of stewardship, the National Park Service has launched an initiative called Find Your Park, “a movement to spread the word about the amazing places we manage, the inspirational stories that the national parks tell, our country's natural resources, and our diverse cultural heritage.” Quilters are doing their part to do just that.