For anyone wanting “Oh, wow!” experience, they should make The National Quilt Museum (NQM) in Paducah, Ky., a travel destination.
Museum Chief Executive Officer Frank Bennett says those unfamiliar with quilt art who walk through the museum doors for the first time, often exclaim, as he did, “Wow!”
While the museum is far away, there is a local connection.
Jacksonville quilt maker Geannine Ott had her work displayed there recently during a national quilt-making contest. She is a member of the Arkansas Quilters Guild of Paris.
“She fared very well,” said Sherwood Ross of the National Quilt Museum,” said Sherwood Ross of the National Quilt Museam (NOM). “Her work was jury-selected to go on exhibit at The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, the world’s ‘mecca’ of art quilts.”
Bennett said the museum is quite a place to tour.
“They have never seen anything like it and can’t believe what they’re seeing,” Bennett said. “Actually, we have a policy that if you are not blown away by what you see we will give you your admission back. We have never had someone ask for a refund and I doubt we ever will.”
NQM is well known among the nation’s 21 million quilters who regard it as the world’s “mecca” of quilting. And it has been described by Forbes as “a massive tourist attraction,” because it draws 40,000 visitors a year from all 50 states and 40 countries, earning Paducah the sobriquet “Quilt City, USA.”
But millions of people who may have heard of The Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Chicago Art Institute have never heard of NQM—-and so are in for an eye-opening surprise. That’s because, “Today’s top quilt artists are creators on a par with world-class American artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Andrew Wyeth, Bennett said.
“I have always enjoyed art, but I’ve never had a ‘Wow!’ experience as I did when I first walked into the Museum’s gallery and came into contact with its brilliant quilt and fiber art. I thought, ‘Everyone should experience this art form.’ It’s like nothing else,” Bennett said.
“The work quilters do in every way is as much art as sculpture is art, or painting is art. The only difference is that quilts are made out of fabric,” Bennett goes on to say. A 37-year-old former business writer (“The Breathing Organization”) and consultant who chose to put his own business aside two years ago to take the helm of the museum, the world’s largest dedicated exclusively to quilting.
Bennett aims to transform the way the general public thinks about fabric art. He sees his mission as changing the notion that the best quilt art isn’t at the caliber of the world’s great paintings. Or that quilts were just something grandmother sewed to keep the family warm with maybe a simple pattern design on them for ornament.