Quilt National

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Quilt National
Dawn Nebula.jpg
Dawn Nebula, by Michael James, exhibited at the first Quilt National in 1979
Genre Quilt Art
Frequency biennial
Location(s) Dairy Barn Arts Center, Athens, Ohio
Inaugurated 1979
Founder Nancy Crow, Françoise Barnes, and Virginia Randles
Most recent May 25 – September 7, 2015
Next event May 27 – September 4, 2017
Quilt National

The Quilt National is a juried biennial exhibition of contemporary quilt art, first held in 1979. The primary exhibition is held at the Dairy Barn Art Center in Athens, Ohio in odd-numbered years. The exhibition includes between 80-90 quilts, and after the conclusion of the Quilt National selections of the exhibits also tour the country.[1][2] It is both the largest and one of the most prestigious shows of its kind.[1][2][3][4]

History and format[edit]

The Quilt National was first held in 1979, and was the first major exhibition of quilt art in the United States, and has been held biennially ever since.[2][5] Additionally, it was also the first major event held in the Dairy Barn Arts Center space, which at the time, was still largely an unaltered dairy barn.[6] Founder Nancy Crow, along with Françoise Barnes and Virginia Randles organized the event, accepting applications from 96 artists, totaling 360 pieces. A final exhibition of 56 quilts, by 43 artists was selected for the exhibition.[6]

Since its inaugural event, the Quilt National has been held every other year at the Dairy Barn, attracting quilt artists from around the world. Beginning in 1983, a selection of the quilts displayed at the Quilt National have gone on tour around the United States.[7] Approximately 75 of the around 90 quilts on display at the Quilt National are chosen for the tour, and are divided into three tour groups, each of which travels to different venues over the course of the two-year gap between Quilt National Exhibitions.[1][7]


The Quilt National was founded with the purpose of displaying quilts as pieces of contemporary art, which differs significantly in the aesthetic and function of traditional quilts. Traditional quilts are meant to be bed coverings, whereas Art Quilters consider their work pieces of fine art, meant for display, rather than use. The Quilt National website explains, "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."[8]

At the time of the first Quilt National, there was no organized body for the collection and display of art quilts, and many traditional quilting venues refused to display them.[1][6] The 1979 Quilt National, and its accompanying catalog, are often credited with helping to establish quilting as a legitimate art form.[3]

Notable quilts and quilters[edit]

More than 700 quilt artists have displayed quilts at the Quilt National.[9] Notable pieces from the 1979 exhibition include Equis Robis I and Equis Robis II by Sharon Robinson, which are custom-shaped coverings for a horse, Earth, water, air and fire by Radka Donnell and Dawn Nebula by Michael James.[10]

Jan Myers-Newbury has displayed 17 quilts in 15 different Quilt National Exhibitions, and Linda Levin has had 15 quilts in 15 different years.[11]


  • Best of Show
  • Quilts Japan Prize
  • Award of Excellence
  • Most Innovative Use of the Medium
  • Lynn Goodwin Borgman Award for Surface Design
  • McCarthy Memorial Award
  • Cathy Rasmussen Emerging Artist Memorial Award
  • Heartland Award
  • Hilary Morrow Fletcher “Persistence Pays” Award
  • Quilt Surface Design Symposium Award of Excellence
  • Young Emerging Artist Award[12]


  1. ^ a b c d Wadley, Carma (13 May 2003). "The art of quilting". Deseret News. Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Meg Cox (2008). The Quilter's Catalog: A Comprehensive Resource Guide. Workman Publishing. p. 544. Retrieved 2010-07-20. The oldest, biggest, and best show of art quilts in the country... 
  3. ^ a b Barbara Mayer (Aug 14, 1985). "Former dairy barn becomes cultural art center". Kentucky New Era. AP. p. 20. Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  4. ^ "Travel Advisory; Quilts and Rugs At Textile Museum". New York Times. November 26, 1995. Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  5. ^ "FAQ - What is the Quilt National?". Dairy Barn Arts Center. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c "The First Quilt National '79". The Dairy Barn Arts Center. Retrieved 10 March 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "On Tour". The Dairy Barn Arts Center. Retrieved 10 March 2015. 
  8. ^ "Purpose & Philosophy". Dairy Barn Arts Center. Retrieved 10 March 2015. 
  9. ^ "Quilt National Artists A-Z". Quilt National Artists. Retrieved 10 March 2015. 
  10. ^ "QN '79 Artists & Their Quilts". The Dairy Barn Arts Center. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  11. ^ "FAQ". Dairy Barn Arts Center. Retrieved 10 March 2015. 
  12. ^ "Prize Winners". Dairy Barn Arts Center. Retrieved 10 March 2015. 

External links[edit]