The Quilt Police

“I had a created a piece of art designed for a gallery setting and placed it in a craft show. A quilt show is a wonderful place for the art of traditional quilting, but is not a place for the work I do.”  post 8/12/13


Back when I was beginning the process of becoming an art quilter and experiencing some level of success; I wrote two posts about quilt shows:

“The Quilt Police” and “Here Comes the Judge” judge

The first post explored my feelings of being out of place with audiences and participants focused on traditional quilts. The second post questioned the “artistic” value of the quilting tradition of a select group of judges awarding prizes for excellence.

Since 2013, I have grow as an artist and grown as member of the larger community of art quilters. I see these topics differently. Quilt shows are opportunities for the art quilt community to share what they do with others and to expand the world of art quilting. These venues have value. What they don’t always share in common with the world of fine arts; is a perspective about the innate value of artist freedom.

Reading about Kathy Nida and her problems with a major quilt show brought me right back to this time in my quilting life.

In the summer of 2013, my critique group had put together a show called “Kimono KaKushin”. It is wonderful collection of art quilts using an actual kimono as physical base. Because this group of artists is filled with intelligent complex thinkers, the resulting show was rich with ideas and visual interpretations of the theme. In our first display of work at a regional quilt show one of our members was censored.

“What right did the quilt police have to judge artist’s work in an approved exhibit from an invited group !”


The objection from the quilt show staff came from patrons who thought the photographic images of the Japanese actions in WWII was offensive. The quilt was pinned closed so those images were hidden. I was furious. Members of my group were furious. We continued to show this work, but at venues where their clear communication and an understanding of what was presented.

This is a similar dilemma faced by SAQA’s travelling show
“People and Portraits”.
Below is the written description and a  banner
for this exhibit from SAQA’s website:

exhibition-page-header-people This exhibition celebrates the expressiveness of the human face. The diverse designs focus on a variety of both emotional states and the ways in which people interact: contemplation, joy, community, work and play.

Neither the written description nor the imagery is confrontational. Not only did the venue accept the exhibit, but it also sponsored the exhibit. “People and Portraits” travelled to several venues (including quilt week) before their was a problem.

“I Was Not Wearing a Lifejacket”.  It is a quilt depicting a recurring dream the artist had that she she describes as a running nightmare. It was made by artist Kathy Nida.


The “quilt police” pulled this  amazing quilt from the display.

It seems at a midwest quilt show their was a complaint(s) about a penis.  The problem with that argument was that no image of a penis was found in the actual artwork and there was no staff member at the quilt show willing to help resolve the issue with the offended audience member. SAQA and many members of the art quilt community made their displeasure known.  The response was disappointing.

The statement from the American Quilter’s Society is as follows:

 “After receiving numerous complaints from attendees about a quilt in the SAQA exhibit, AQS removed the quilt from the People & Portraits exhibit at the Grand Rapids QuiltWeek event. Prior to removing the quilt, the feedback AQS received was not limited to one isolated comment. Attendees reached out to AQS staff at the show and via emails and phone calls to our office.”

I followed this issue over several weeks. ( Google it. There is enough out their on the web for anyone interested to get more information.) What I wanted to reflect on is the lessons for me as quilt ARTIST(!) and a member of the art quilt community.

Lesson 1: The traditional art quilt community has a rich culture which I value and understand that I have to serve as a bridge to that community.
Lesson 2: When creating or marketing a display of art quilts consider level of background knowledge of the audience
Lesson 3: Create an avenue for the viewer through written overviews, artists statements, flyers, recordings, and other resources for audience members to get additional information.
Lesson 4: Have a contract which specifically spells out what will be on display (including images of actual work) and what will be the process for resolving issues.

Until next time…..

See my work in:

Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center, Auburn NY:

International Quilt Festival – Houston, TX: October 2016
International Quilt Festival – Chicago, Illinois: April 2017