American Folk Art Museum

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The American Folk Art Museum, New York, founded in 1962, is one of the preeminent resources for American quilts, with a long history of exhibitions, publications, and quilt-related educational programming. The museum organized the Great American Quilt Festival from 1986 through 1992, and quilt exhibitions are a regular part of the museum’s presentations at both the main building and the museum’s branch gallery. Among the museum’s holdings of around 500 quilts are some of the masterpieces of American quiltmaking, both in terms of aesthetic interest and historical significance. The collection ranges from the earliest dated quilt of 1796 to contemporary examples and is particularly strong in Amish quilts, Double Wedding Ring quilts, Crazy quilts, contemporary African American quilts, and whiteworks.

Among the notable recent quilt exhibitions are “Talking Quilts” (2004), which focused on the use of text in quilts from the nineteenth century through the present; “White on White (and a little gray)” (2006), which featured a selection of exquisite whitework bedcovers in a variety of techniques and explored the female response to neoclassicism in American decorative arts; and “A Legacy in Quilts: Cyril Irwin Nelson’s Final Gifts to the American Folk Art Museum” (2007–2008). Quilts were also highlighted in exhibitions such as “American Anthem: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum” (2002–2003); “Blue” (2004–2005); and “Ancestry & Innovation: African American Art from the Collection” (2005).

A rotating selection of quilts is always on view at the American Folk Art Museum, 45 West 53rd Street. For more information call 212. 265. 1040 or visit the museum’s website at www.folkartmuseum.org

On continuous view at the museum's branch location at 2 Lincoln Square (Columbus Avenue at 66th Street) is the National Tribute Quilt, a monumental textile honoring the victims of September 11, 2001. Conceived by the Steel Quilters of United States Steel Corporation, a small quilt club in Pittsburgh, the quilt measures eight feet high by thirty feet wide and is constructed of 3,466 blocks in six panels.The blocks were created by contributors from all fifty states, as well as Canada, Denmark, Spain, and Australia. The four central panels form a montage of the twin towers of the World Trade Center against the New York City skyline. These are flanked by panels dedicated to the lives extinguished on the four hijacked airplanes and at the Pentagon. Each three-inch-square block bears the name of one person who perished in the disaster, and a grid system allows each name to be located on the quilt. An accompanying booklet provides the grid location of each victim’s name, the name of the quiltmaker, and the names of those individuals and companies who have been so generous in donating their time, effort, and materials. Although the Steel Quilters made every effort to use all blocks that were received, the lists of names were modified many times since the project was initiated on September 13, 2001. As a result, blocks were modified to match the list as it appeared in June 2002. The quilt was completed on July 4, 2002. For more information, call 212. 595. 9533 or visit www.folkartmuseum.org.

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