A Little History


The Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio

Quilt National is a biennial juried competition dedicated to the promotion of the contemporary art quilt. It is a showcase for new work produced in the two-year span prior to the exhibition. Its focus is to provide the viewer with a visual presentation of innovative trends in the medium of layered and stitched fabric.

In the late 1970s Athens, Ohio, was home to numerous talented artists. Included among this group were Nancy Crow, Françoise Barnes and Virginia Randles. These and other area artists were using fabric to create works that were pieced, layered, stitched and stuffed. These works were “quilts” by virtue of their structure, although they were intended to be viewed on a vertical plane. The original designs and use of innovative techniques and color combinations made them unacceptable to the organizers of traditional quilt shows who were most interested in beautifully crafted bedcovers with recognizable patterns. The only exhibit opportunities for these artists were in mixed media fiber shows alongside baskets and weavings.

Crow and Barnes recognized the need for an appropriate showcase for what are now known as “art quilts.” They were just two of a dedicated corps of volunteers who decided to organize an exhibit devoted entirely to this relatively new breed of contemporary quilt. Fortunately, this need coincided with the efforts of area artists and art lovers to preserve an abandoned dairy barn. Built in 1914 as part of a farm complex situated on grounds belonging to the state-owned mental health facility, the barn had served as part of the activities therapy program. Artists and others in the Athens community felt that the barn had the potential for a second life.

Quilt National was intended to demonstrate the transformations taking place in the world of quilting. Its purpose was then, and still is, to carry the definition of quilting far beyond its traditional parameters and to promote quiltmaking as what it always has been — an art form.

The works in a Quilt National exhibit display a reverence for the lessons taught by the makers of the heritage quilts. Many of the works hold fast to the traditional methods of piecing and patching. At the same time, however, the Quilt National artist is intrigued by the challenge of expanding the boundaries of traditional quiltmaking by utilizing the newest materials and technologies. These innovative works generate strong emotional responses in the viewer while at the same time fulfilling the creative need of the artist to make a totally individual statement.

Quilt National ’13 Sponsors

Major support provided by

Additional Support provided by

And other generous individuals

  • Betty Goodwin
  • The McCarthy Family
  • Bobby and Katie Masopust

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