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Quilting Without Limits

The National Quilt Museum in Paducah pulses with a palpable new energy as preparations are made for the April 9 opening of Imagine Hope, a multimedia exhibit featuring 12 contemporary art quilts by award-winning quilter Hollis Chatelain of Hillsborough, North Carolina.

Twenty thought-provoking black-and-white photos by renowned photographers will accompany Chatelain’s fiber art to help educate viewers about her work’s social and environmental themes.

The exhibit coincides with the annual American Quilter’s Society Quilt Show and Contest held in Paducah every April, so visitors are expected in droves.

“The exhibits at the museum during the AQS Show are some of the biggest blockbuster exhibits of the year,” says Jessica Byassee, the museum’s director of public affairs. “We are excited to have Hollis’ Imagine Hope exhibit during this time. Her work not only broadens what people expect in a quilt, but also makes people think about issues in today’s world.”

The museum houses contemporary art quilts, and they are nothing like what you may have snuggled under at Grandma’s house.

The color of dreams
Chatelain describes her quilts as “large and bright and in your face.”

Inspiration for her designs comes in dreams, which she sees in a single color, explaining the monochromatic nature of most of her work. Much of Chatelain’s adult life was spent in West Africa. Her slumber is filled with nomadic, blue-turbaned Tuaregs roaming the Sahara on their camels, and young, Burkinabe mothers nursing babies as they gracefully balance baskets atop their heads. Chatelain captures the ethnic diversity of the region in striking, lifelike textile portraits.

Not all of Chatelain’s dreams are pleasant. Some depict the plight of refugees and the horror of genocide. “The whole idea of the exhibit is to inspire viewers to get involved and make changes,” Chatelain says.

A dream about Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa inspired a quilt called Hope for Our World, and led to a meeting with the Nobel Peace Prize winner when he spoke at Berea College in 2005. Chatelain explained her dream to Tutu, and he gave his blessing for her to proceed with the piece. The 82″ x 82″ quilt is hand dye-painted using six values of purple, the color of the dream. It depicts Tutu standing in a field surrounded by children of many nationalities.

“In my dream, children from all over the world were approaching him, like he was the Pied Piper, and he represented hope to the children and world peace,” Chatelain says. “I had this dream right as our country was discussing going to war in Iraq. Archbishop Desmond Tutu represented the future of our children–a future without war, a future with hope.”

A dream takes wing
Caryl Bryer Fallert, three-time winner of the AQS Quilt Show, is another celebrity of the quilt world. The museum has six of her works in its permanent collection. In 2000, Fallert was selected as one of the 30 most influential quilt makers in the world. Fallert’s Corona II: Solar Eclipse was named one of the 100 Most Important Quilts of the 20th Century.

Fallert is known for “applipiecing,” a technique she invented to piece the complex curves in her quilts. Quilt makers from around the country come to Paducah to learn the technique in Fallert�s workshops.

One of Fallert’s most recent works, On the Wings of a Dream, won Best of Show in the 2009 International Quilt Festival in Houston, and can be seen at her Bryerpatch Studio, Gallery and Workshop Center, just blocks from the museum. The quilt depicts a woman in a bold red dress performing a joyful dance. She is accompanied by a transparent, white bird, and the two seem to fly as one.

“I always imagined dancing would feel like
flying,” Fallert says.

The work is very personal and represents a transitional period in Fallert’s life. In 2005,
she and her husband, Bob, moved from northern Illinois to Paducah’s Lower Town Arts District. Shortly after she opened Bryerpatch, Bob suddenly died.

After mourning her husband, Fallert realized that, painful as it was, she had to move forward. Fallert has an innately positive outlook, and she was eager to use this new chapter of life to explore the new, the fresh, the exciting. One thing she had always wanted to do was learn to dance.

“I threw myself a 60th birthday party and everyone in the neighborhood came,” Fallert says. “Everyone danced except me, because I never learned how.”

Shortly after that, Fallert got the idea for On the Wings of a Dream. Working on a quilt about a dancer inspired her to enroll in ballroom dance lessons. No longer a wallflower, her spirit soared like the dancer in her quilt.

“My intention in my quilts is to celebrate the positive in life,” Fallert says. “My personal belief is that where we put our thoughts is what we bring into our lives.”


The American Quilt Show and Contest
It will be held at the Paducah Expo Center, Julian Carroll Convention Center, and the new AQS Pavilion, April 21-24. The show offers a number of lectures, classes, and special events.
* 400 beautiful quilts in the AQS Quilt Contest
* 400 vendor booths
* 100+ classes, lectures, and special events
* Special quilt exhibits daily

The AQS Quilt Contest will award $125,000 in cash prizes to quilters.

This is one show for which you should get early reservations–for classes and hotel. Go online to the Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau for a list of approved accommodations, and more information on the show, at, and click on “AQS Quilt Show.”

The National Quilt Museum
215 Jefferson St., Paducah
(270) 442-8856
The museum will host Imagine Hope, an exhibit of quilts by Hollis Chatelain, April 9-May 25. A key part of the exhibit is Hope for Our World (, a work inspired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, which won Best of Show at the International Quilt Festival in Houston in 2007.

Bryerpatch Studio, Gallery and Workshop Center
502 N. 5th St., Paducah
(270) 444-8040
Visitors to the National Quilt Museum shouldn�t miss a chance to spend a couple of hours gallery hopping in Lower Town, or “LoTo,” as the locals call this newly revitalized historic district. Lower Town is an artist community established as a result of the city’s highly successful artist relocation program sponsored by local leaders and Paducah Bank. To learn more, go online to

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