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Common thread links art exhibit

By : Eric Coker

Some of the country’s top quilters will have their works on display this semester at the University Art Museum.

The contemporary quilt show is just one part of “Full-Spectrum: Natural Fibers, Quilts and the Textile Arts.” The exhibit runs through Dec. 5 on both levels of the Art Museum. An opening reception will take place from 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, at the museum.

“I’ve already had quite a few people say to me, ‘I have to come back and see these quilts,’” said Jacqueline Hogan, assistant director of the Art Museum. “They already want to come back a second or third time.”

The idea for the exhibit started as a fiber show, as the United Nations had declared 2009 “International Year of Natural Fibers.” The exhibit was expanded after Jack Braunstein, director of development for the Art Museum and Anderson Center, suggested the addition of quilts.

Braunstein, a former editor of quilting magazines, began calling many of the people he had written about, including renowned quilter and appraiser Gerald Roy. Roy lent the museum a traveling exhibition of quilts from the Pilgrim/Roy Collection made by the Amish and Mennonites from 1860-1940. This antique quilt collection is making Binghamton its first stop after its debut at the New England Quilt Museum.

The exhibit grew to three components after nearly 40 prominent quilters agreed to take part: “The Evolution of Natural Fibers”; “Vibrations: Color Resonance in Antique Quilts 1860-1940”; and “Contemporary Quilt Show.” The antique quilts will be featured on the museum’s first floor, while the fibers and contemporary quilts can be found on the two levels of the second floor.

“Fiber and fabric are integrated in our daily lives, whereas with paint or clay you have to seek it more as a medium,” Braunstein said of the exhibit’s importance.

Although they do not have the pizzazz of the quilts, the evolution of the fibers is a key part of the process, Hogan said.

“If you don’t have a cotton plant, you can’t do a quilt,” she said. “Everything here is based on those fibers.”

The fibers component has several educational aspects that will appeal to the local schools, including maps, television presentations and “please touch” areas, Hogan and museum Registrar Silvia Ivanova said.

“You’ll be able to touch the fibers before they’re made into fabric,” Hogan said. “We have silk fibers that can be touched before the fiber is taken and made into a blouse or a skirt.”

The contemporary quilt show features an interactive element: Visitors can use their cell phones for a free audio tour in which the quilters talk about their work. It is the first time the museum has offered a cell-phone tour, Hogan said.

Among the quilters featured in the contemporary show are Paula Nadelstern, who has been featured in a solo exhibition over the summer at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City; Sue Holdaway-Heys, whose awards include the American Quilt Society Show; and Rose Frierman, senior director of alumni/parent operations at the University.

Fans of the exhibit can delve deeper into the topic, thanks to a series of lectures, workshops and demonstrations planned for the semester. Roy will be at the museum Oct. 23-24 for appraisals, a private tour of the antique collection and a lecture about the impact of color in quilts. A yarn-spinning workshop will be held Sept. 17, 24 and Oct. 1; and a rug-hooking demonstration takes place Sept. 26. Go to for more events and registration information.

“The bottom line in this is education,” Hogan said. “We’re trying to educate the students on campus and in grade schools about the fibers, textiles and fabrics and how much they mean in our everyday lives.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08