published Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Museum needles taxpayers

A quilt museum may seem like an ideal summer vacation destination for the Waltons, Aunt Bee or Ma Ingalls, but quilting fails to hold the interest of most Americans today. Since department stores carry a wide selection of affordable bedding, and special memories can be recorded by photographs and videos rather than by laboring over scraps of cloth, quilts have become largely irrelevant in modern culture.

It's too bad for taxpayers that irrelevancy didn't stop lawmakers from dumping taxpayers' hard-earned money into subsidizing a quilt museum in Lincoln, Neb. -- including hundreds of thousands of federal tax dollars supplied by residents of the Chattanooga area who will never visit the boondoggle.

The International Quilt Study Center and Museum maintains a stash of 3,500 quilts, which is believed to be the largest collection of quilts in the world. In addition to storing, preserving, studying and promoting quilts and quiltmaking, the museum also features a patchwork of quilt-focused lectures and exhibits. Examples of the museum's presentations include, "Kit Quilts: More Than They Were Cut Out to Be," "The Amish and Their Quilts" and "Indigo Gives America the Blues."

The museum is housed in an enormous 37,000-square-foot building on the campus of the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Even though the building was funded privately, much of the expense of operating the museum comes out of the pockets of taxpayers.

The International Quilt Study Center and Museum is operated through the University of Nebraska's Department of Textiles, Clothing and Design.

As a result, the school picks up the tab for a sizeable chunk of the museum's budget. Since the university is funded publically, and relies on both state and federal subsidies, the museum's costs needle taxpayers in Nebraska and throughout the country.

In 2011, roughly 23.5 percent, or $39,038, of the university-funded portion of the museum's $166,120 budget will come courtesy of federal taxpayers. Nebraska state taxpayers will shoulder approximately $38,374 of the museum's funding this year.

This year, the combined federal and state tax burden to support the quilt museum is expected to exceed $80,000.

In addition to the tax dollars slipped into the University of Nebraska budget each year to subsidize the museum, the organization is routinely showered with tax dollars from local, state and federal arts and humanities bureaucracies.

Shortly after the museum set up business in 1997, the National Endowment for the Humanities raided federal coffers to award the museum a series of grants to fund an endowment. By 2002, the museum had received $350,000 in NEH handouts at the expense of American taxpayers.

The Institute for Museum and Library Services, which is also funded federally, awarded the quilt museum a $30,000 grant in 2004 and another $800 handout in 2009.

Nebraska's Humanities Council, which is financed primarily through federal NEH funds, awarded the museum a total of $27,628 between 2003 and 2010.

This year, Nebraska's quilt cathedral snagged $25,565 from the Nebraska Arts Council, which is funded through a mixture of state tax dollars and federal National Endowment for the Arts money.

Local tax dollars frequently find their way to the quilt museum, as well.

The Lincoln Arts Council has dispensed $3,900 in taxpayer-funded giveaways to the museum since 2004, including $1,500 last year.

It is said that "a quilt will warm your body and comfort your soul." With over $1 million of tax money spent subsidizing the International Quilt Study Center and Museum since its inception, it could also be said that "a quilt museum will snatch your wallet and take your money."

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aae1049 said...

Mothball the quilts!

"This year, the combined federal and state tax burden to support the quilt museum is expected to exceed $80,000."

November 15, 2012 at 12:22 a.m.
hambone said...

Your numbers work out to $285 ea. for a handmade quilt, that is a bargain !

November 15, 2012 at 10:29 a.m.
rolando said...

Wait a freekin' minute!

I am not particularly a quilt-freek but this author is worried to distraction about a lousy $80K of FEDERAL money? What's his problem; it isn't going into the pockets of the 47%, maybe?

With today's $1.6 TRILLION Executive Branch taxpayer money spent EACH YEAR, he worries about literal pocket change?

The museum isn't even in Tennessee -- it is in Nebraska. How about checking into the subsidies our local politico-idiots all that cash spent for so-called "public art" financed through local taxes?

So exactly how much of Tennessee-provided taxes went into this project.

Although touting anything American is considered un-American these days, American-made quilts are indeed a collectable art form right up there with pre- and post-Columbian handloomed Navaho rugs/blankets [one of which recently auctioned at $1.2 Million].

Get real, editor...that's not Chinese crap in there [at up to 4 stitches per inch! WOW!].

November 15, 2012 at 10:46 a.m.
LibDem said...

This is indeed a travesty. Textiles and the related jobs belong abroad.

November 15, 2012 at 12:42 p.m.
rolando said...

Thanks for the laugh, LibDem -- even though what you said is true in spirit, I presume your last was sarcasm?

November 15, 2012 at 4:12 p.m.
LibDem said...

Sarcasm? Never!

Government grants, often whimsical, generally are intended to support some beleaguered industry or educational institution. It's easy to be a sniper but more difficult to think.

November 15, 2012 at 5:41 p.m.

I think the US spends more than that in a day on the Mid-east. Tell you what, let's park an aircraft carrier in Nebraska instead of the Persian Gulf.

Seriously, how sure are you that the fractions of pennies we contribute to this Quilting is less of a boondoggle than other stuff? To suggest we in this area contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars is to ignore the payments Nebraskans make themselves.

November 15, 2012 at 5:46 p.m.
marsbar said...

I'm not sure if this "opinion" was written by a community columnist or the editorial board but it sure an uneducated view of importance of quilts and quilting in the history of America and in today's economy. In 2011 The Augusta Chronicle notes, "Despite its reputation as a fading, antique pastime, quilting is a growing, $3.6 billion industry nationwide and is seeping into new demographics and art forms." And it's more than a hobby since is a source of income for many home based business.

I would suggest that the author go to the public library and check out the 9-Part documentary, "Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics". It may provide a better understanding about why The International Quilt Study Center and Museum is provides such an invaluable service in our understanding of quilts as an American Treasure.

November 21, 2012 at 2:59 p.m.
tarabu said...

Wow . . . I guess it's a good thing my planned visit to the U Nebraska quilt center next year will go bring my tourist and travel dollars to a community that will appreciate them! I find it astonishing that the writer is arguing against the preservation of a piece of our national heritage because new versions of the same item are available in mass-merchandised retail locations. I would find that satire worthy of 'The Onion'.

November 21, 2012 at 4:05 p.m.
M said...

Quilts have become largely irrelevant in modern culture-Where is the documentation to back this statement up?

This is an uneducated statement, why would this article be published? I find it sad that this article is written in TN. TN itself has a huge quilting legacy. The Victoria and Albert Museum had a huge exhibit of quilts. Why am I bringing this up because of the revenue it made for them.

Quilting is an industry that creates job and much more.

November 21, 2012 at 4:42 p.m.
alljake said...

I am a newspaper journalist myself, a longtime quilter and the publisher of a national quilting magazine. With all of these roles at my disposal, I can emphatically say that this is one of the most one-sided, denigrating and ignorant editorials I've read since coming out of J-school. Generally, an editorial will at least take half a stab at voicing the other opinions and opposing concerns before asserting its position. Not here though. Looks like no effort was given to contact the Quilt Study Center to find out about the revenues the museum, and the university, bring in from its quilt programs. And what about the surrounding businesses that glean money from quilters traveling to the center and students living in the area as they work on their studies?

The information about the value of the quilting industry (yes, it's an industry, and a huge one) in American alone ($3.6 billion in 2010-Quilting in America Survey) is so easily found on the Internet that the only conclusion I can draw is that the writer was too lazy to bother looking, and having too much fun trying to sound witty and authoritative to even realize how insulting their words were.

I agree with "Marsbar" above about checking out the "Why Quilts Matter" documentary. It's an excellent exploration into why this editorial is so completely off-base. Another is "Stitched: The Film," a documentary by a newspaper reporter and her photojournalist husband who both knew nothing about quilting, but learned very quickly about the passion--and monetary power--of quilters while making this film.

But aside from handing you your homework, since you didn't bother to come to class prepared, I'd also urge you to step back for a moment and really think about whose efforts you're patronizing. While there are men in quilting, about 95 percent of active quilters are women, and they come in ALL ages. I read something like this editorial and I think to myself that if every statement in this piece was exactly the same, but we were instead talking about the Baseball Hall of Fame or the Henry Ford Museum, would there be this much questioning of the museum's fiscal ethics and use of tax money by the writer? I'd welcome an answer to that one, but in the meantime, I urge you to take the time to actually go to a local quilt shop and watch the patrons. Or better yet, call the museum, arrange for a tour and learn about what they do instead of just insulting their efforts. If at the end of that fact-finding mission you remain of the same opinion, I would respect that. I would even consider your work journalistically relevant. But you're not there yet.

November 21, 2012 at 5:04 p.m.
ebandit said...

Congrats to the author of this article. You win the award for Moron of the Year!

November 21, 2012 at 6:11 p.m.
raevenfea said...

With an industry totaling over $3.5 billion (higher than the $3.3 billion Scrapbooking industry), quilting is hardly irrelevant to modern culture—nor is it restricted to grandmas or even women. Fiber arts in general are gaining share in the crafting, hobby, and art industries.

The $80k of federal funding this year (or even $1mil total) that you are so up in arms about is likely no more than any other pet project pushed through by lawmakers. Surely other niche and mainstream museums are also funded in part by federal, state, and local grants.

Had you put as much research into the history of quilting as you did sussing out the funding for this museum, you might find that even after the technologies of photography and videography were widely available, quilting continued to be a large part of artistic expression in America. Not all quilts are about preserving memories—the can be commemorative, but they are often simply works of art in their own right. Even large museums have quilts in their collections.

When residents of Chattanooga were suffering under the decline of the Rust Belt, the tradition of quilting and make-do-and-mend surely helped families keep warm and possibly raise funds for those in need. Perhaps one of those quilts has made it into the collection along with quilts from all over the country.

Grab a quilt to warm up with while your wallet is snatched by the legion of other federal expenditures—and if you’re worried about the money crossing state lines, well, don’t worry, far more is leaving the country just as quickly.

November 21, 2012 at 6:15 p.m.
latebloomer said...

I didn't realize it was "Aunt Bea" who has made quilting a multi-billion dollar a year industry. I also never knew that a uniquely American art form is somehow equivalent to mass produced crap from China. But I'm not a "journalist", so I appreciate being enlightened.

November 21, 2012 at 6:31 p.m.
MsKit2u said...

There is no by-line on this article, which is just as well; as the author is talking out of his/her hat! Even a tiny bit of research would show that quilting is a multi-billion dollar industry in the US; and a little more research would show that most of what's driving that industry are women and men aged 40 and under: hardly "Aunt Bea's" or "Ma Ingalls".

Be careful anonymous author - your ignorance is showing!

November 21, 2012 at 7:18 p.m.
BillVolckening said...

I am absolutely flabbergasted. Shame on the Times Free Press for publishing such an outrageous, irresponsible, uninformed, and anonymous opinion. As many others have already said, quiltmaking is a multi-billion dollar industry in America. It couldn't be more relevant today, when thousands of women (and men) across the U.S. are mobilizing to make and send quilts to victims of Hurricane Sandy. It is extremely insulting to compare a handmade work of art and family heirloom to bedding that's mass-produced overseas. Quilts represent one of the longest unbroken traditions of women's artistic expression in America. That’s hardly irrelevant!

November 21, 2012 at 8:05 p.m.
suematlock said...

I totally disagree with this opinion piece. Next summer's vacation is going to be spent in Lincoln, Ne, solely in order to be able to see the quilt collection. I have also visited the Michigan State University Museum collection, the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Paducah Quilt Museum. These places hold pieces of American history that are not irrelevant and are worth my private money and my tax dollars.

November 21, 2012 at 9:57 p.m.
LuvsChocolate said...

Obviously the writer of this article has underestimated the popularity of quilting. Perhaps Chattanooga could also open a quilt museum to make up for the lost revenue from the dip in Nascar popularity. (See Nov. 20th article) You might want to do a little more research before writing your next piece.

November 21, 2012 at 10:10 p.m.
marsbar said...

For the anonymous opinion writer, you may want to also check out the Quilt Alliance Newsletter to see some lovely quilts, the creators and the stories behind the quilts. The Quilt Alliance serves a similar function at NPR's "Story Corps".... recording history but with quilts.

November 22, 2012 at 6:13 a.m.
mknight said...

With all due respect to the opinions of this person, I think you are uninformed about the value of the quilt museum and it's contributions to the local economy. What about the hundreds of quilters who show up for the events the museum holds? They spend money in the area, stay in hotels, eat out at restaurants, shop in antique stores, buy gas and rent cars in the area, and support the museum specifically. What's wrong with supporting museums in general? Art museums, textile museums, and museums of all types & kinds have been the storehouses of our world-wide and uniquely American history for many generations. I wonder whether you've ever been to the quilt museum? If not, I'd recommend you go. Limited taxpayer money here surely beats building bridges and roads to nowhere using taxpayer dollars! Go back and research those articles in the newspapers about rampant spending on pork barrel projects. In 2005, $223 million was earmarked by Senate Committee on Appropriations chair Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) to build a bridge to connect an Alaskan town of 8,900 to an island with a population of 50, saving a short ferry ride. It was nicknamed "the Bridge to Nowhere," and was ultimately removed from the spending bill. The museum at least creates tourism dollars, offers a source for historical preservation, and provides jobs for all those who work at the museum.

November 22, 2012 at 12:08 p.m.
AKKat said...

I questioned whether to valiate this anonymous, biased opinion with the time required to create a user id and respond. It is just generating publicity for a paper that allows unfounded opinions to be published and a writer that doesn't check his/her facts prior to putting them out for the world to see. I challenge the writer to find any non-profit museum of any size that has never accepted a tax deductible contribution from a patron, or received a federal grant. When you write off your charitable contributions, you are in effect providing federal dollars to the institution. I would guess that the quilt museum closer to your own state (in Paducah) has also received federal money in some form. I would also guess that quilting brings millions of dollars into that state with one of the largest quilt shows in the world. You may not appreciate the art of the quilt, or the art of other museums around the country. However, we are a country that is supposed to appreciate our differences. When you set out to restrict the parts of our art and heritage that will be preserved, you set out to re-write our history.

November 22, 2012 at 12:23 p.m.
alljake said...

Is there a news story about residents of Nebraska being hot over how much public money goes the International Quilt Study Center's Museum and I came up with zilch. If there is such a news story that your editorial board was basing its editorial upon, I'd appreciate a link or reference here. I don't quite understand why a paper in Tennessee would be concerned about what's happening in Nebraska.

In the absence of such a report, I'd like to point out that you infer (indirectly) that some might be "needled" by the museum. Who are these people and if it's only your ed board and copy desk, then you're making news, not reporting, reflecting or debating it.

I did find numerous reports of federal grants paid to the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga--millions of dollars to programs there alone. The community college in your town is getting $3 million for job retraining programs. Oh, and then there are the grants funding airport improvements and, hey, your local arts council is seeking grant money for their efforts.

Of course, you can argue the relevancy of these grants over others, but the fact remains that what the IQSC is receiving is so minor in comparison to where the bulk of grant money goes that it should not be worth the ink used to cite it specifically. There are an estimated 21 million quilters in America. With the $1 million you cite as taken in by the museum over the last 15 years, the amount taken from us quilters' tax dollars works out to less than one penny per American quilter annually. I think we quilters are happy to offer that up to the cause.

One of my favorite lines you wrote was this: "...the National Endowment for the Humanities raided federal coffers..." The NEH's purpose is stated as this on its website: "Because democracy demands wisdom, NEH serves and strengthens our republic by promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans. The Endowment accomplishes this mission by awarding grants for top-rated proposals examined by panels of independent, external reviewers." From what I know of the IQSC, the museum perfectly aligns with the NEH mission. If you have a concern, I would propose that it's with the existence of the NEH as opposed to how it's spending its money. Yesterday's quilts are a reflection of our history as women and Americans. Today's quilts reflect the same interests and concerns of our predecessors, and so much more.

Again I would urge you to do a little more research into what quilting is today. Look at the art created by these incredibly talented and dedicated artists. Look at the plethora of books, magazines, blogs, and other media dedicated solely to quilting. Look at the expansion in the last 30 years of textile manufacturing. See the many women AND men who now earn part or all of their income from this "irrelevant" pastime. I promise you will be surprised by the depth and breadth of today's quilters.

November 22, 2012 at 12:38 p.m.
BillVolckening said...

The museum is truly extraordinary, and its staff is top-notch. I visited recently when the American Quilt Study Group Seminar was held in Lincoln, and I was so impressed, I became a member of the museum. Ordinarily, I wouldn't consider being a member of a museum that's halfway across the country from my home, but what they do at IQSC is unique and important. I hope to return there often. I never would've traveled to that part of the country if IQSC hadn't been there, but now I'm so glad I did.

Any serious student of American history needs to study quilts and textiles. Remember the Revolutionary war? "Taxation Without Representation" ring a bell? Well, do you think they were just fighting over tea? Textiles were among the most precious imported goods during America's colonial period. The industrialization of America also revolved around the textile industry. Quilts have served in many roles during the last 250+ years, from bed coverings to fundraisers to commemorative and family history objects, as part of disaster relief efforts, and as works of art. Quilts are wedding gifts, baby gifts, memorials for families of fallen soldiers. Quilts are certainly among the most important women's history objects in America, but it's not just women's history we're talking about- it's art history, the history of industrialization, the history of mass media - it's American history!

So, anonymous opinion writer and staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, I hope you all learned something here. There are at least 20 million quiltmakers and even more quilt lovers, who would heartily disagree with your opinion, for a variety of reasons. The opinion you have published is not just extremely un-American, it is not at all representative of how people from Tennessee really feel about quilts. A retraction, apology, or opportunity for rebuttal would be appropriate, but if that's not something you'll do, I hope you'll never again make such an egregious error. When you speak of quilts and quiltmakers in America, take heed, and show a lot more respect!

November 22, 2012 at 12:54 p.m.
researcher12 said...

Whose opinion does this article reflect? Why didn't the person put his/her name at the top of the page and take credit for his/her opinions? I am really quite astonished by this writer's position given the contributions that the creative, artistic women of Tennessee have played in American history...and yes, specially quilt history. One of Tennessee's acclaimed quilt artists and quilt historians---Bets Ramsey of Chattanooga, no less---received the Governor's Distinguished Artist Award in 2005, Tennessee's highest honor in the arts.

In addition, Ramsey, along with internationally distinguished author and quilt historian Merikay Waldvogel of Knoxville, are Inductees of the International Quilters Hall of Fame. You can read about Waldvogel's contributions to American history here

Quilters and quilt historians have made no small contribution to American history, not to mention women's history in particular. Given the history of the repression of the " female voice and talent" in American history prior to the 20th century, were it not for women's artistic skill with a threaded needle, much of "women's voice" (her opinions and creative talents) would have been lost in the fog of male dominated recording of American history. The legacy of quilt making specifically could easily have been totally lost in male dominated history, had it not been for female quilt historians.

Textiles are one of the most diverse and inclusive vehicles of teaching history that exists since the history of quilts is so intimately intertwined with ethnic history, the histories of international trade, the Industrial Revolution, the American Revolution, Colonialism, women's history, and family and community history. The courses and collection offered by IQSC touch upon all of the above. If one wants to argue that federal tax dollars should not support this museum and its classes, then one must attack every museum and every institution of higher learning in this country that receives tax dollars. It is my impression that this writer was not attacking the awarding of tax dollars per se but specifically the "irrelevancy" of what this particular institution --- the International Quilt Study Center --- has to offer. Obviously, the writer of this article has no awareness of what the IQSC is actually about and the unique role it is now playing on the international scene of textile history. I challenge the author of this article to do his/her homework about textile history---and quilt history in particular---and then write a 2nd article about the "insignificance" of quilt history and the IQSC.

Karen B. Alexander Independent Quilt Historian member American Quilt Study Group since 1981 Quilt History Reports - blog

November 22, 2012 at 6:13 p.m.
researcher12 said...

At the top of this page this disclaimer appears: "Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy." My question, respectfully asked, is: since the name of the author does not appear on the above article, does this mean the above article represents "the opinions" of the Chattanooga Times Free Press owner? Editorial board? Whose opinion does the article represent? Thank you.

November 22, 2012 at 9:07 p.m.
BillVolckening said...

Karen (thank you!)- I believe it represents the opinion of one irrational, uneducated individual, and I feel the Times Free Press should have done a much better job filtering its content. When something that inflammatory is said about such an extraordinarily good-hearted group of people, it's just plain wrong.

Re: Bets Ramsey and Merikay Waldvogel, these Tennessee women are iconic figures in the world of quilt study. I had the tremendous good fortune of meeting both of them in Lincoln at the American Quilt Study Group Seminar. Merikay took time out of her schedule to view a treasure I'd recently found, and I sat with Bets at dinner and at the lunch roundtable. She has a lovely way about her, a soft-spoken, humble Southern lady. When she speaks, you listen. Both women have been so prolific, it's still hard to imagine that anyone in Tennessee could not know about quilts.

November 22, 2012 at 9:20 p.m.

Golly! Thank you so much for directing my attention toward The International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Nebraska! In reading this article and the comments which followed it, I realize I must remove Chattanooga from my must visit bucket list and go west to Nebraska. As a quiltmaker and a tourist who enjoys seeing my tax dollars at work, I wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to take in this museum. Thanks so much for helping to open my eyes to this can't miss opportunity.

November 22, 2012 at 9:40 p.m.
imaquilter said...

Obviously Paducah, KY wasn't too concerned when they built the National Quilt Museum. Paducah probably hates it when the quilt show is in town every year and tens of thousands of people flood their fair city with their money. Gee, sure would hate to see that happen here...

November 22, 2012 at 10:47 p.m.
BillVolckening said...

Sisters, Oregon is another example of a community that experiences a flood of tourism and money from a big quilting event. The town of Sisters is rurally located in central Oregon, and the town's population is a little over 2000 people. Each year the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show (now approaching its 38th year!!) attracts over 10,000 tourists who drop well over $2.5M. Just like Paducah, I'm sure all that tourism and money are such a drag for the poor folks in Sisters! If you went there and told people quilting was irrelevant, they'd surely (but politely) laugh in your face.

November 23, 2012 at 2:10 a.m.
DianeHarris said...

All I can say is "wow." And not in a good way. This piece is so far off base I hardly know where to begin. I'm an editor for a national quilting publication, which means I am literally making a living from the quilting industry. I also happen to be a Nebraskan. Anyone here will tell you that Nebraska and the IQSCM have become Quilt Mecca for distinguished experts from all over the world. Quilts matter because of economic history, political history, military history, art history, women's history, textile history…shall I go on? Next time do your homework, please.

November 23, 2012 at 9:27 a.m.
CaroleAH said...

Perhaps when the author of this article has their facts straight concerning the historical, economical and artistic value quilting has provided to so many over people and locations over the centuries, then we can have a reasonable exchange.

November 23, 2012 at 1:56 p.m.
EdieMac said...

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is one of the most uninformed opinion pieces I have ever read in a newspaper. Wasn't it just a few short months ago that you published an article about the McMinn museum that you say is nationally recognized for its support of the textile arts? Is it okay that that museum gets funding from tax dollars?

Quilting is a multibillion dollar business and brings in more than enough tax dollars to support the museum in Nebraska. Let me break that down for you a bit. Included in the quilting business, and yes, it is indeed a business, are people who make a living writing books, editing books, printing books, magazines publishers, fabric companies and their designers, pattern designers, thread companies, quilt shops, paper bag companies, button manufacturers, embroidery floss manufacturers, dye companies, just to mention a few. And, that, my uneducated friend, means jobs. Many jobs, many people paying taxes.

Each year, two markets are held that are specific to the quilting business. Spring market travels around bringing in dollars to each city where it is held. Fall market is always in Houston, Texas, and is followed by Quilt Festival. Those two events bring in a double dose of tourism dollars.

And yet you seem to have the idea that it is only little old ladies sitting around a quilting frame. What a foolish, dated idea! You need to get out and about. You need to visit the museum in Nebraska and include a few more on your educational journey such as the quilt museum in Paducah, Kentucky, before you decide what is a waste of tax dollars. I would bet that this drop in the bucket in the large scheme of tax dollar distribution is one of the most appreciated ones by the businesses that quilting generates.

But let's go a bit beyond the money aspect. Quilting is a part of American history. It is a story book waiting to unfold. It is a piece of art. It is so much more than a piece of bedding. So much more!

November 23, 2012 at 2:20 p.m.
momratz said...

This article is unbelievably out of touch with reality. Quilting is a $3B+ industry in the USA today. Quilts that are made by US artists are cherished by family members, displayed in museums, and considered some of the top art in the country today. These heirlooms deserve to be preserved in archives such as that at University Of Nebraska in Lincoln. You all have a great quilt legacy in TN - I can't imagine how your quilt makers must feel after reading this article.

November 23, 2012 at 8:01 p.m.
needler529 said...

I'm so tired of people speaking from their butts. A quilt museum is a history of our country. The women before us were industrious. They made quilts out of whatever they had. Modern day quilters do more 'art' quilts. Not quilts of necessity. Our ancestors should be honored with displaying their quilts. This is from the backbone of our heritage.

November 24, 2012 at 1:22 a.m.
astonished said...

Whatever one feels about taxes going to support this museum, I am astonished at the amount of condescending ignorance and clear snobbishness this particular article exudes. I seriously doubt the writer did even a miniscule amount of research to learn anything about the quilting world today, which can be found in abundance with a few simple Internet searches. Would this writer even be aware of the tens of thousands of and women of all ages...who are involved with this artistic and expressive activity? I doubt it. Does he or she know that American quilters spend more on their sport than gun owners, golfers, and fishermen? I am quite certain he or she does not. Chiefly, the writer exhibits an attitude that is not only ignorant but antiquated. Go do your research, Mr/Ms writer! THEN, apologize for your insulting and ignorant article.

November 24, 2012 at 9:06 a.m.
bagrel said...

What an uninformed piece written about the International Quilt Study Center in Nebraska and about quilters/quilting in general. The author of this piece obviously did not do any research on the subject before writing it I am sure. First off, humanity grants are give to all sorts of art museums and this is no different. If grants are given to promote the arts, quilts and quilt museums are justified in getting a small piece of that pie too. Second point I disagree with greatly is the median age of quilters that the writer presumes to be only elderly women. Quilters span a wide range of ages and genders. For example, just Google "Men Quilters" to find many professionals in the quilting industry that are male. Granted some quilts are still made for beds but even they are more works of art than utilitarian even if they are meant for the bed. Again Google "Art Quilts" to see wonderful examples of beautiful works of art that are essentially fabric. Paintings are not just a gallon of paint anymore than quilts are just fabric. I am disappointed in the Times Free Press in that this article was published without a authors name attached to it but perhaps they too knew it was a lot of drivel.

November 24, 2012 at 11:25 a.m.
Quiltbirdie said...

I think I know what happened here. A 21-year-old college intern was allowed to write an editorial as part of his internship at the paper. It shouldn't have gone to print with so little background research completed and no local relevance, but the regular editorial writer was sick that day, so they had to print the kid's piece.

November 24, 2012 at 5:40 p.m.
sparky15003 said...

Well, it's a good thing this author's anonymous, because he/she would probably have hoards of angry quilters running after him/her with upraised quilting needles! I am a quilter, and I was so incensed that I had to create a user I'd just so I could castigate this idiot! The previous posters have done such a wonderful job of refuting every sentence of this piece. I'm going to reiterate what they said. Quiltmaking is far from dead or irrelevant; it's a living craft and art form practiced by millions. To compare a hand-made quilt to some cheap mass produced polyester comforter you'd buy at Walmart is like comparing filet mignon to Hamburger Helper. Quilts are a part of American history, offering a glimpse into the lives of people who lived through the Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression, etc. Quilts are also the artistic expression of (mostly) women (although men have and do make quilts). There are wonderful examples of creativity and workmanship, the equal of any painting or sculpture in museum, and just because they were made by anonymous women working in the "feminine" medium of cloth and thread does not make a quilt any less a work of art! As for myself, I spend quite a bit to support a multi- billion dollar quilt industry, which in turn provides jobs and income for Americans. I plan on visiting the IQSCM (along with many of my fellow quilters who also make the trek) and I am sure the lovely city of Lincoln, Nebraska is quite happy to host all of us quilters, who bring an influx of tourist dollars to spend on local food, lodgings, and entertainment. So the IQSCM gets 80k in taxpayer dollars. So what? I'd rather my tax dollars go to funding a nice quilt museum than some mess of a war or for underwriting tax breaks for huge corporations. In short, sir or madam, you are an ill-informed, obnoxious, moronic ignoramus.

November 24, 2012 at 7:31 p.m.
JanetB said...

Among the things I am thankful for on this Thanksgiving, are the freedom of speech and people who care. The museum was obviously championed by people who care enough about history and art to preserve the beautiful quilts that are part of their heritage. Quilts are more than a blanket to keep you warm and to compare them to the garbage that comes from China is unthinkable. Quilts are hand-produced artifacts that document the history of our nation. Which leads me to freedom of speech... the right that permits the writer of this article to put words on paper on a subject of which he has no knowledge. The unfortunate downside to freedom of speech is that it creates a group of people who believe that the written word is the truth when, as with this article, it is more fiction than fact.

November 24, 2012 at 10:13 p.m.
mrsdkba said...

I am a Canadian - with a family history of quilters. My paternal grandmother quilted with my maternal great-grandmother. I gave my niece my "grandma" quilt (ca. 1969) on the occasion of her marriage (ca. 2010). She and her AMERICAN husband both cried - and insisted on sleeping under it on the night I gave it to them. One of the first recorded quilts in North America is a pieced quilt from Canada. The author of this ridiculous post should read a bit of history - especially as it pertains to slavery, the underground quilts and the secret messages.

I can't wait for the author's next article. I am quite certain it will be just as ridiculous and ill-informed as this one is.

November 25, 2012 at 2:57 a.m.
Rickyquilter said...

It is obvious from the comments that we all know the writer of this article is totally uninformed and didn't even attempt to do research on the significance of quilting in history or currently. One of the most ridiculous statements is the dollar amount that the International Quilt Study Center has received. Seriously? - chump change when you consider other national subsidized institutions. I did a bit of math - if the International Quilt Study Center received 40,000 in Federal Funds in 2011 - and there were 139.3 MILLION tax returns filed in the US. Each taxpayer in the united states had to cough up .00028 cents as their contribution - folks that 28 ten-thousanths of ONE dollar. Oh my!!! Tennessee should really be annoyed about THAT! - NOT.

November 25, 2012 at 9:57 a.m.
crebj said...

The writer of this piece is the Husband You Leave in the Car. But he has his value: this uninformed rant will bring out more support for the museum than a heartfelt plea. Keep him around, Times editors.

November 25, 2012 at 11:25 a.m.
sjtlaw said...

Kudos to those readers who have posted so many thoughtful comments in response to this short-sighted opinion piece. In most papers, if an opinion piece is unsigned, it reflects the view of the editorial board rather than an individual columnist. If so, this editorial board is woefully uninformed. The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 is close to $1.4 trillion. The amount of taxpayer money spent to support the work of historians and textile preservationists is miniscule. History is about much more than generals, battles, wars, and political leaders. It is also the story of migrations, raw materials, climate, cultural norms, religious faith, community values, gender roles, economics (including bartering and the role of unpaid work) and much more. The International Quilt Study Center and Museum examines and preserves history and adds to our collective knowledge. The miniscule federal and state funds allocated to this endeavor are well spent.

November 25, 2012 at 11:27 a.m.
sjtlaw said...

A link re a recent exhibit - quilts from WWII is at Anyone interested in the International Quilt Study Center can learn more at You can also find information on Facebook at

November 25, 2012 at 11:44 a.m.
crebj said...

This piece is doing more to show support for quilting and the museum than any heartfelt plea. Note: quilters pay taxes. Why shouldn't there be a museum for their interests?

November 25, 2012 at 11:44 a.m.
BAQuilter said...

The author of this article is showing his ignorance. I was going to write much more but I believe all the above comments repeat most of what I want to say. But -- there are museums for Railroading, Automobiles, Air planes, all kinds of sports, etc. My goodness, I'm not interested in many of those but I would never tell the people who are interested that they are worthless, etc. I live in CA but have been to both of the quilt museums mentioned in this article as well as several others. And I will visit them all again and again as I am able. This 'journalist', and I use the word loosely, needs a refresher course.... and perhaps a new job elsewhere! Editor, are you paying attention??

November 25, 2012 at 1:37 p.m.
silkee said...

What an uneducated editorial. In 2010, Quilter's Newsletter published a study showing that 14% of American homes had one active quilter living in them and that quilting was a $3.58B/yr industry. The average quilter spent about $2500/yr on quilting and the "avid quilter" spent more than $6400/yr. I hardly see this as an "irrelevant" industry. Further, if one holds the belief that museums holding old stuff are irrelevant, I can't wait to crush up the Roman Marbles for road fill, and lets just get rid of the dinosaur bones since there aren't anymore dinosaurs anyway, and who wants to pay for a museum to house the dusty things! Hello? Can we sent this editor back to boot camp for a little re-education?

November 25, 2012 at 1:40 p.m.
researcher12 said...

Ever wonder about the power of quilts to reflect and express the trials, tragedies and tribulations of human life?

November 25, 2012 at 3:25 p.m.
jymany said...

Dear author of article on the perils of quilting (i.e., collecting quilts). You just flunked freshman English/journalism. Besides that, you better hide in your house because there is a huge army of women and men who are coming after you with needles and pins! I guess you are entitled to your opinion but your thinking and application of it is flawed. Find a different subject, please.

November 25, 2012 at 3:51 p.m.
peggyanne said...

Quilts are art. Instead of paint, quilters use fabric. If quilts are too expensive and have no value, then as art, Monet and the Mona Lisa have no value. Perhaps the "stringer" who wrote this thinks we should burn then and stop the cost of art museums all arount the world.

November 25, 2012 at 7:47 p.m.
LC said...

Has this writer even visited the facility in question? Has he/she seen the valuable research provided by the collection and the insight the research projects supported by the collection give into women's history and historical events that have shaped our country? Where did these ridiculous, uninformed and poorly researched opinions originate? I'm totally horrified by the opinions expressed here without any foundation in truth.

November 25, 2012 at 10:26 p.m.
Jacaranda said...
Debate has long raged over taxpayer funding of the arts.  However, rather than considering the arts in general, the author of this article has focused his/her venom on one particular branch of the arts – and one particular institution.  The author has not been willing to sign his/her name to this particular article, so for readability, I will simply refer to the author as he.
He criticises quilt-making as being of little relevance in an era when affordable bedding is available, and memories can be preserved via photos.  If quilt-making is of such little relevance, then how does he explain the existence of twenty-one million quilters in the U.S.?  (More than the entire population of Australia.)  Likewise, how does he explain that of all the events which take place in the Convention Centre in Houston every year, the International Quilt Festival is the only one to require the whole centre?
This article asks the question:  why should this particular institution receive so much funding from arts and humanities councils, etc. and the University of Nebraska itself?  The question I ask is: why not?   
Quilting has long been neglected as an art form.  We live in a time when increasing numbers of artists with a background in painting are moving into quilting as they discover the possibilities of thread and fabric.  Yet quilting is still fighting for recognition in the art world, and a place on art gallery walls.  Why is that?  The answer is two-fold.  One part is that “art quilting” is a relatively recent phenomenon.  It is only recently that quilters have been making works to hang on the wall for purely decorative purposes, rather than making them for a functional role as bedding.  Yet if you consider the finest examples of patchwork and quilting from the past, they do deserve to be regarded as works of art.  However, and this brings us to the second part of the answer – these works of art have previously been hidden away in the home – like their makers.  From the time patchwork and quilting started, quilt-makers have been almost always female.  Perhaps this is the real reason why quilting as an art form is still struggling to receive the recognition it deserves.  
To learn about the history of quilt-making is to learn about the history of the women quilt-makers.  For many pioneer women in America, quilt-making and quilt design was not only a form of self-expression, but their only means of documenting a response to the political events around them.  Many apparently innocuous quilt designs carry hidden political meaning.

In summary, the University of Nebraska Quilt Museum and International Quilt Study Center is not the relic of a dying art that this article claims it to be. Instead it is the hub of a thriving art form and the housing for important historical records. The story which these records illuminate carries as much meaning and relevance for Americans and people worldwide today as it did when they were made.

November 26, 2012 at 9:24 a.m.
Babette_Quilts said...

To: Mr. Drew Johnson, editor of the Times Free Press Opinion Page phone: 423-757-6300

Dear Mr. Johnson, I am sure that you are astonished to discover that many do not share your opinion that “quilting fails to hold the interest of most Americans today. Since department stores carry a wide selection of affordable bedding, and special memories can be recorded by photographs and videos rather than by laboring over scraps of cloth, quilts have become largely irrelevant in modern culture.” I truly hope that you have the opportunity to learn how many Americans vehemently disagree with this ill-informed opinion soon and for a long time to come. I believe the efforts of those who have commented before me have served the IQSC well by the impassioned, (largely) articulate, educated, thoughtful responses. I do not hope to achieve that lofty goal, but merely to add my comment to the growing list of those whose ardent dissent has been voiced.

Quilts are so much more than a bed covering or record of memories; they are a tangible link to America's past as well as present; a record of the literal blood, sweat, tears, joys, sorrows, pride, love, and achievement of the generations of women and men who have invested themselves in both large and small ways into the making of, caring for, preservation, and support of this highly-respected art form.

Please do quilts the honor of granting them more respect than the Corn Palace, aligator wrestlers, and other taxpayer-funded boondoggles you so earnestly deride.

By the way, I forgot to mention that the IQSC had over 17,000 visitors in 2011...

November 26, 2012 at 5:24 p.m.
daler said...

I look forward to seeing the quilt of the month from the museum and understand its history. Quilting is a multi-billion dollar business worldwide. There are several international shows held in the US and worldwide, bringing in lots of tourists. Maybe Chattanooga should host an international quilt fest in their lovely town!

I have traveled throughout the world, and even as close as Biltmore. I love to gaze at the antique textiles and marvel at the skillset of the weavers, the piecemakers, the needleworkers. It is part of life of men and women through the ages. Why belittle what is predominantly women's work? Would the author of the article cast dispersions on men's woodwork? Model trainsets? All of these reflect a piece of our history that 400 years from now people will sit back and reflect on them as they wrap themselves in some chemically created fabric four centuries from now.

This is what museums are for-- preserving a piece of history not for you or me, but for my progeny centuries from now. For right now, I appreciate the inspiration, like I do when I go into an art museum or see original works by masters sitting in a church in Rome.

No doubt $80,000 here and there adds up, especially for those Libertarians out there who are pretty much into short term gain. But at least that $80,000 is housing something that will be around for as long as the fabric holds up, and since they are conserving it, it will be for a while!

November 27, 2012 at 11:39 a.m.
jade said...

Not only is this opinion piece lacking in research and courtesy, but also in common sense. There are several projects currently receiving federal funding which are narrow in scope and too far for most US citizens to visit. They continue to receive funding. I'm certainly not asking to defund any facilities that I don't have an interest in seeing. Simply because a thing is not widely popular does not mean is is worthy of derision or relegation to history books. Your piece, sir, proposes that the entire nation should be held in ignorance; that no one should hear about this important part of women's history. You proport only those things you deem worthy ought to receive federal funding. Were that the case, there are several items in the federal budget I would like to have removed.

November 27, 2012 at 1:10 p.m.
jade said...

Might I also say that $1 million over the course of 15 years is inexpensive in the extreme for a museum of whatever variety.

November 27, 2012 at 1:13 p.m.
TxGal said...

Since there is NO byline or "writer" identified for this very ILL-INFORMED and ERRONEOUS article ... Mr. Drew Johnson, (Editor of this newspaper" must be the contact, for allowing such a sad piece of "journalism" to ever be published ...

Mr. Drew Johnson, Editor:

Obviously you've heard from many, many quilters, quilt collectors, quilt historians, art collectors and craft enthusiasts by now ...
It's truly laughable that this writer can be so seriously concerned about $80,000 for funding of this Quilt museum. $80,000 compared to the many MILLIONS of dollars wasted and misspent by our States and FEDERAL government EVERY SINGLE DAY. I'm a whole lot more concerned about the fraud, the true waste, the lining of hands and the continual handouts to the permanently UNMOTIVATED residents in our Country, from our Federal "coffers".
While the writer obviously has NO appreciation for actual history, the textile arts, women's history or that of the Midwest and Western migration of settlers in the 1800's ... certainly many, many thousands, millions of the REST OF US who enjoy quilts and quilting DO. While quilting for pure NECESSITY has become "irrelevant" in today's world, the practice, the art and admiration of quilting is VERY MUCH ALIVE AND WELL - here not only in the US but ALL around the WORLD. Quilters do not make quilts today for utility purposes, but for expressions of self, for art, for love and caring for family, friends and those less fortunate. Much as many women did 100-150 years ago !! Quilting TODAY has exceeded 4 BILLION $$$$$$ as an INDUSTRY ... it sure isn't just little ol' Granny's hobby anymore !! Hundreds of quilt shows, exhibits, markets, thousands of local quilt shops and YES ... MUSEUMS draw MILLIONS of quilters and enthusiasts every year. Can the support be improved for local and national museums ?? Yes, it can - and this is something that the quilting industry and its key leaders need to work toward ! A QUILT museum is JUST AS WORTHY of public funding and support as any ART museum, HISTORICAL museum, or ANY museum or collection devoted to a cultural period or region in our Country's history.

November 27, 2012 at 1:43 p.m.
wordsnorth said...

When studying history stops being relevant, we stop being relevant.

To say that the history of quilting OR modern quilting are not relevant speaks volumes about this "editor's" lack of curiosity and his/her inability to research--traits certainly relevant in being a good journalist.

November 28, 2012 at 9:51 a.m.
Lisasjf said...

you've got to be kidding me?

November 28, 2012 at 1 p.m.
Lisasjf said...

Who the heck is this idiot and what planet does he or she live on? I would really like to know who wrote this article? The ignorance of people never ceases to amaze me. Quilting is an art! Something which this writer obviously has no knowledge concept or respect for. Quilting happens to be a major part of the history of this country and the worlds for that matter. Okay go ahead cut out the funding. Lets cut out all funding for all the arts. Lets raise a nation of people from childhood like this author who was obviously raised to not appreciate art and all it encompasses. Lets raise a nation of stupid people that have no concept of what it feels like to create something from your own two hands. Lets raise a nation, keep them in the dark and hide from them all the historical pieces of art from all over the world. Why not? We have so many geniuses walking around that have no appreciation for what other people accomplish nor respect for anyone and anything! And Just to make this clear my last few statements are meant to be VERY sarcastic! And this person needs to go back and hide under their rock!

November 28, 2012 at 1:13 p.m.
BillVolckening said...

A question for the author: Is Civil War History important?

If the answer is yes, you might want to consider reading an article in the September issue of American Quilter Magazine. The article is by Suzanne Swenson, who suggests that the control over the cotton trade was a major reason, if not THE reason, for the North's victory in the Civil War.

This is how the history of quilts and textiles meshes with American history, and the people who are involved with research in this field are doing such extraordinary work. You really don't want to get into a debate with any of these folks about the relevance of quilts.

November 28, 2012 at 1:27 p.m.
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