Biographical / Historical
This collection includes the papers of The Kentucky Quilt Project (KQP) from its inception in 1980 until 1997 (the bulk of the papers from 1980 to 1983 and 1991 to 1994). The papers provide information on and documentation of quilts; Quilt Days; local, national, and international quilt exhibitions; traveling exhibitions; three books; one scholarly monograph; six issues of a scholarly biannual quilt journal; the quilt index; and general office files.
Three major projects are encompassed in the Kentucky Quilt Project papers: 1) a 1983 exhibit called “Kentucky Quilts 1800-1900,” 2) a set of six exhibits in 1991-1992 called “Louisville Celebrates the American Quilt” including a four-conference weekend dedicated to quilt scholarship, and 3) the Quilt Journal published from 1992-1995. KQP also joined forces with other state quilt documentation projects to establish a national quilt index. In addition, KQP was associated with other quilt activity locally, nationally, and internationally.
The first major exhibit, “Kentucky Quilts 1800-1900,” was held in Louisville, Kentucky, at the Louisville Museum of History and Science, February 5-March 31, 1983, following a dozen Quilt Days throughout Kentucky. The Quilt Day is a concept invented by the KQP founders to collect information on Kentucky’s historic quilts, an idea that was later picked up by other states as they began to document historic quilts. Collected information was used to develop the exhibit and it was also the basis for the book/exhibit catalog. Kentucky Quilts 1800 – 1900 by Jonathan Holstein and John Finley was published by KQP and sold during the Louisville exhibit, and at the following national and international traveling quilt exhibit sites. At the close of the Louisville exhibit, twenty quilts went on tour to Ireland and within the United States with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibits Service (SITES) between July 1983 and May 1985.
In preparation for the 1983 “Kentucky Quilts 1800-1900” exhibit, KQP scheduled twelve Quilt Days across the state to locate and document historic quilts. (See listing below under Quilt Days for “Kentucky Quilts 1800-1900.”) Quilt Days were designed and held with the goal of finding fine and unique examples of antique quilts as well as quilts with intact provenance, including known makers and histories. Quilt Days were scheduled in the months preceding the exhibit from July 1981 to March 1982, with one additional Quilt Day held during the exhibit on February 5, 1983. Documentation includes slides, snapshots, Polaroid prints, and written documentation of about 1,000 quilts as well as several videotapes.
During the relatively quiet period between the 1983 “Kentucky Quilts, 1800-1900” and the 1991 to 1992 shows of “Kentucky Celebrates the American Quilt,” The Kentucky Quilt Project sponsored or supported four exhibits including two in Louisville, one in Texas, and one in Australia. They were:
• “The Artist and the Quilt,” July 12 - August 29, 1984, Louisville Visual Art Association, Louisville, Kentucky.
• “Quilt Festival ‘84” and “Quilt Market” exhibit, October 27 - November 4, 1984,
• “Virginia Ivey Quilt” exhibit, the J.B. Speed Art Museum, 1985,
• “Covering Kentucky” an American Antique Quilt Exhibition, November 6-15, 1987, Sydney, Australia.
The second major KQP exhibit, “Louisville Celebrates the American Quilt,” included six separate quilt exhibits in Louisville venues, the first beginning November 22, 1991, and the last finishing May 3, 1992. Each of the six exhibitions had a unique theme, ranging from an exhibit of Amish quilts at the J.B. Speed Art Museum to an exhibit at the Kentucky Art and Craft Gallery of art objects based on quilt designs. All exhibits were open during most of February and March 1992. Exhibits were:
• “A Plain Aesthetic: Lancaster Amish Quilts” exhibit at the J.B. Speed Art
Museum, February 4 - May 3, 1992.
• “Abstract Design in American Quilts” exhibit, a twentieth-anniversary
remounting of the landmark 1971 Whitney Museum of American Art exhibit (New York City) at the Louisville Museum of History and Science, November 22, 1991 - March 31, 1992.
• “Always There: The African-American Presence in American Quilts” exhibit
at the Louisville Museum of History and Science, February 7 - March 31, 1992.
• “Narrations: The Quilts of Yvonne Wells and Carolyn Mazloomi” exhibit at
the Louisville Visual Art Association, February 2 - March 29, 1992.
• “Quilt Conceptions: Designs in Other Media” exhibit at the Kentucky Art and
Craft Gallery, January 21, 1992 - March 29, 1992.
• “Quilts Now” exhibit at the Zephyr Gallery, January 31 - March 29, 1992.
In conjunction with these exhibits, KQP published two books: Abstract Design in American Quilts: A Biography of an Exhibition by Jonathan Holstein and Always There: The African-American Presence in American Quilts by Cuesta Benberry. KQP also printed a third edition of their 1982 book, Kentucky Quilts 1800 – 1900 by Jonathan Holstein and John Finley. The series of exhibits initiated its run with four coinciding scholarly conferences under the title “American Quilt Celebration Weekend,” February 6-8, 1992, followed in 1994 by the publication of a limited printing conference lecture monograph, Expanding Quilt Scholarship: The Lectures, Conferences and Other Presentations of “Louisville Celebrates the American Quilt.” The exhibits also included a Kentucky Quilt Day, March 21, 1992, with “Quilts before 1950” at the Louisville Museum of History and Science and “Quilts after 1950” at the Louisville Visual Art Association.
Following the closing of the 1992 exhibit, a smaller traveling exhibit of “Always There: The African-American Presence in American Quilts” toured in the United States from October 1992 through November 1994. (See site listings in “Louisville Celebrates the American Quilt” below, under the subhead: “Traveling exhibit ‘Always There: The African-American Presence in American Quilts’.”)
The Quilt Journal was initiated during the development of the “Louisville Celebrates the American Quilt” exhibits. The first issue was distributed in November 1992 and publication continued during the exhibits and through the first issue of 1995. Dedicated to the publishing of quilt scholarship, The Kentucky Quilt Project published four volumes of the Quilt Journal with two volumes of two issues each and two volumes of one issue each.
The Kentucky Quilt Project was one of the initiators of the “Quilt Index Needs Assessment for the Library of Congress” presented in 1992, and “The International Quilt Index Needs Assessment Preliminary Proposal, December 1992.”