November 3 Free Public Lecture and Panel Discussion Celebrating the Art of Quilting
Programming begins at 1:00 PM in Joslyn's Witherspoon Concert Hall

Join us for an afternoon of exceptional programming celebrating Pattern and Purpose: American Quilts from Shelburne Museum.

1 PM Lecture - Witherspoon Concert Hall
2 PM Panel Discussion - Witherspoon Concert Hall
3 PM Cash Bar Reception and Exhibition Viewing - Strauss Bridge

1 PM  Lecture   
Making Sense of a Studio Life: 40 Years Plus
with artist Michael James

Referring to his textile work, people often ask Michael James “Why are these quilts? Why aren’t they paintings?” Neither ‘fish nor fowl’, James’s quilts have been difficult for some people to categorize. In this talk, James will address the ambiguity inherent in his work and how he long ago came to terms with it. James will also reflect on over forty years of studio production and the quality of creative life it brought him.

MICHAEL JAMES began exhibiting his work professionally in the 1970s and since then has shown in solo and group exhibitions throughout North America and abroad.  His nontraditional quilts are included in the collections of the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC, the Baltimore Art Museum, the Racine Art Museum, the Newark Museum, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Shelburne Museum, the Renwick Gallery of the American Art Museum in Washington DC, and the International Quilt Study Center and Museum at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, among others.

James holds a BFA degree in painting and printmaking from the University of Massachusetts and an MFA in painting and printmaking from Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, N.Y.  James’ undergraduate alma mater awarded him an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree in 1992. In 2001 he was named a Fellow of the American Craft Council. He is a past recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Fellowships (1978 and 1988), and an NEA sponsored USA/France exchange fellowship that underwrote a three-month residency at the La Napoule Art Foundation in southern France in 1990.

James chairs the Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design at UNL. There he teaches graduate courses in the area of material culture and quilt studies. In 2009 he was honored with the University of Nebraska’s system-wide Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award, given to recognize significant creative achievement during the recipient’s time at the university. In 2015 the Renwick Alliance awarded him its Master of the Medium Award in textiles, for lifetime accomplishment.

His work is represented by Modern Arts Midtown in Omaha, Nebraska, and may be seen on his website.

What's Pictured: Michael James, Sky/Wind Variation #2, 1990, cotton and silk, 51 1/2 x 85 in., Collection of Shelburne Museum, acquired from Michael James, 2011-56. Photography by Andy Duback.

2 PM Panel Discussion
Continuity, Change, and Nontraditional Quilting

Throughout history, quilts have functioned as a means to convey the complexity of human emotion. Hear from Michael James, Celeste Butler, and Shea Wilkinson, three noted artists all working with nontraditional quilt forms to achieve powerful communicative, transformative effects.

Moderator Carolyn Ducey, from the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, will open the program with a brief overview of history of quilting, unfolding the continuum from traditional quilts on display in Pattern and Purpose to current practices in contemporary studio quilting.


Self-described QUILTologist and Subject Matter Specialist, Celeste Butler is a multidisciplinary fiber textile artist, and storyteller based in Omaha, Nebraska. Butler has exhibited at the Bemis Center For Contemporary Arts, Carver Bank, Metropolitan Community College, Love’s Jazz and Art Center, and The Union for Contemporary Art. She was a juried selected artist for the Union for Contemporary Art 2017 Fellow program. Butler has worked on several community quilting projects with residents celebrating the future and growth of North Omaha. One of her collaborations includes working with mothers who have lost their children to violence. She has developed in-school artist in-residence programs, with a focus, on teaching the art of quilting and storytelling to the next generations. Butler has worked with inner city children at Nelson Mandela and Saratoga Elementary School to create storytelling quilts. Butler has lectured widely and is currently teaching courses at Metropolitan Community College.


Omaha artist Shea Wilkinson has been sewing since childhood. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, as well as degree in International Studies and German. While teaching English in Mexico, Wilkinson became passionate about fiber arts and returned to the States to pursue her career as an artist. She has exhibited widely in national juried exhibitions and has received numerous awards, including the James Renwick Alliance's Chrysalis Award for a distinguished emerging artist in 2016. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska.


Carolyn Ducey is curator of collections at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She oversees new acquisitions and ongoing care of the museum’s collection. She has curated a number of exhibitions, including "Chintz Appliqué: From Imitation to Icon” and “The Collector’s Eye: Amish Quilts from the International Quilt Study Center Collections.” She is also author of the monograph Chintz Appliqué: from Imitation to Icon, (2008), co-author of What’s in a Name: Inscribed Quilts (2012), and an editor of American Quilts in the Industrial Age: 1760-1870, (University of Nebraska Press, 2018). Ducey earned a Masters of Arts in American art history from Indiana University in 1998, and her doctorate in Textiles, Clothing & Design, with an emphasis in quilt studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2010.

These programs are free and open to the public. Cash bar reception and exhibition viewing follows events in the Witherspoon Concert Hall.