News Column

History of an art form

July 27, 2014

By Jessica Miller, Enid News & Eagle, Okla.

July 27--ENID, Okla. -- Woven amongst the fabric, patterns and stitches in the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center's newest special exhibit are stories of past generations.

One quilt dates back to 1852, some came to Oklahoma during the Land Run of 1893 and others have been passed down over the years.

"My main goal with this is to not necessarily have a quilt show, as some people might be used to, but to exhibit how quilts are used within families to tell the family history, to tell the history of different organizations," Curator of Collections Dave Kennedy said.

The center's quilt collection -- rarely seen by guests -- will be on display until Nov. 15.

"A lot of these quilts probably won't be back out for another 15 or 20 years," he said. "There's a number of quilts we have that we cannot exhibit, simply due to the condition. In some ways, I feel like I'm pushing it with a couple of the quilts here.

"That's part of it, giving them the chance to be out like this, is a once in a lifetime thing. We have some quilts that are just amazingly well preserved."

Plans for the "Pieces of Home" quilt exhibit developed when the center had a gap in its exhibit schedule.

"I've always known that we had this great quilt exhibit and I've had a number of people from around the state and region comment on our great quilt collection," Kennedy said. "It was just a natural thing to think we needed to exhibit quilts.

"This exhibit is being developed all internally, out of our own collection."

Kennedy said the Cherokee Strip has a long history with quilts -- from hand-me-down quilts to the Mennonite quilt sale each November -- and he knew there would be interest in the area.

"We all have these treasures in our homes, and I think (the exhibit) will be a way to help let some people learn that they should respect a little bit more what they have," he said. "For other folks, I think it will help them to recognize and understand the importance of what otherwise may just appear to be a utilitarian object.

"I know that we're going to be drawing people from all over the region just to come and see this."

Quilts have been used for thousands of years, he noted.

"It wasn't until it got to America that it really started to become this type of an art form," he said.

The 25 quilts in the exhibit display all types of color schemes and patterns.

There are signature quilts and patterns including the Bowtie, Bowtie Block, Mother's Flower Garden, Dove's in the Window, Rail Fence and Black Eyed Susan.

One collection, donated by a family, contains quilts made by a great-grandmother, a grandmother and a mother.

"You've got a whole family history right through here," Kennedy said, motioning at quilts displayed on a bed. "This is three generations of quilt makers. And the notes that we have talk about what they did, everything from scrap material that was around the house to these right here. These are all pieces of material taken out of worn-out men's shirts."

One of the quilts on the bed is a "yo-yo" quilt -- made with squares of material pulled into circles. Kennedy said the quilt consists of 1,600 yo-yos.

Another quilt was made in 1913, in just two days. It is covered with the names of businesses and individuals who purchased a spot on the quilt.

"It's just amazing. This quilt's 101 years old," he said. "We've got all kinds."

Kennedy said there is a semi-permanent exhibit in the center's main gallery and some pieces will be switched out in it, but most of the quilt collection is not normally displayed.

"We just don't have the exhibit space, and no museum has the exhibit space," he said. "Your typical museum in this region -- and I've been involved really directly with a lot of museums across this region for the last decade -- and the vast majority of those museums, 90 percent of their collection is in storage. We're no different."

The exhibit will be accessible with regular admission during the center's open hours.

Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for senior adults, students and children. There are also special family rates. Active-duty military and veterans are admitted to the center free of charge.

The center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.


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Source: Enid News & Eagle (OK)

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