Pattern and Purpose: American Quilts from the Shelburne Museum
10/6/2018 - 1/6/2019

Organized by the Shelburne Museum.

Throughout the history of quilt-making, the finest pieces were often made to be admired rather than used. Brought out of cupboards and trunks on special occasions, highly-prized bedcovers linked family and community histories, bridging the gap between domestic life and public display. By the middle of the nineteenth century, there were increasing public venues showcasing quilts, including state and county fairs, where adept quilt-makers competed for prizes and local renown. Today, quilt-making is recognized as an art form “hidden in plain sight” – these familiar objects carry the unique hand of their maker as clearly as a painting or sculpture might, revealing creative expression through their thoughtful design and careful execution.

Pattern and Purpose brings together thirty-five masterpieces made between the first decades of the 1800s and the turn of the twenty-first century, ranging from early whole-cloth quilts, carefully-pieced Lemoyne stars, and embroidered botanical “best quilts” to more recent “art quilts” by contemporary makers. Bold in design and pattern, they reveal their maker’s skill — from complex geometric designs that would feel at home in a gallery of Pop Art to delicate patterns drawn from nature.

Shelburne Museum was the first American museum to exhibit quilts as works of art, a testament to museum founder Electra Havemeyer Webb’s trailblazing vision and passion for fine, folk, and decorative arts. Shelburne has amassed one of the most significant museum collections of quilts in the country, recognized for its exceptional variety and quality.

Ticketed: $10 general public adults ($5 on Thursdays from 4–8 pm); $5 for college students with valid ID (through the Joslyn/UNMC Passport Partners program, those with a valid UNMC student ID receive free tickets); free for Joslyn members, and youth ages 17 and younger. Free exhibition weekend for all college students: TBA.

What's pictured: Carrie M. Carpenter, Northfield, Vermont, Applique and Pieced Sunflower Quilt (detail), 1860–1880, cotton, 77-1/2 x 84 in., Collection of Shelburne Museum