As one of the world's UNESCO Creative Cities, Paducah, Kentucky celebrates the art of quilting and the contemporary quilt artist year-round! In honor of the National Quilt Museum's 30th anniversary, CEO Frank Bennett reflects on the museum's mission and exhibition schedule for 2021.

National Quilt Museum Paducah

The 2021 in-facility exhibit schedule features 14 exhibits that will inspire and amaze!​

By Frank Bennett, National Quilt Museum

Nothing represents global history and culture quite like quilting.  While the world continues to change, the one thing that has remained is how people capture the human condition in fiber. This is a medium and an artform that has been used for hundreds of years as a form of creative expression in major cities and rural towns, by individuals from all economic backgrounds, to express every possible emotion.

The National Quilt Museum works to bring these stories of the human experience to life for visitors and, in so doing, we bring the stories of the global quilt and fiber art community to new audiences. Over the last three decades, the museum has introduced millions of people to the work of today’s quilters.

Quarantine Quilts

CHAOS & UNCERTAINTY by Victoria Findlay Wolfe, "Quarantine Quilts: Creativity in the Midst of Chaos"

Diverse Exhibits of Quilt & Fiber Art

Through diverse exhibits of quilt and fiber art, we strive to offer stories, not of quilts, but of the human condition. We hope to give each visitor ideas to consider that are outside of their current worldview, and ultimately alter their perceptions, their understanding and their empathy for those living different lives than there own.

These exhibitions that represent diverse creators and the unique contributions of culture to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development including Reduced Inequalities, Gender Equality and Life on Land. This year’s in-facility exhibit schedule will be one of the best ever as visitors experience extraordinary artwork on topics relevant to our collective human experiences. 

Never Forget

REFLECTIONS by Martha Kotter, "Never Forget: Quilts from the 9/11 Museum & Memorial"

World Events, the Human Experience & Nature

On the day the museum opened in 1991, the total collection was only 85 quilts. Over the years, The Collection of The National Quilt Museum has become one of the most respected and admired public collections of modern quilts with over 650 artifacts. Visitors will experience 30 years of quilting through the unique exhibit, “Sew Many Quilts: Celebrating 30 Years of The National Quilt Museum.” 

Quarantine Quilts: Creativity in the Midst of Chaos” will feature thirty quilts from artists around the globe. For this challenge exhibit, quilters were prompted to create a quilt about the pandemic, quarantine and the health, economic and community challenges they experienced during 2020.

From one world-changing event to another, The National Quilt Museum is honored to present "Never Forget," a collection of quilts commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon all made by artists uniquely impacted by these events. In partnership with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero in New York City, The National Quilt Museum will be the only museum in the United States to host an extraordinary retrospective on one of the most important days in U.S. and world history. 

The museum will also feature three exhibits about nature this year. “Stone Portraits and Sacred Stonescapes,” by artist Denise Labadie, will portray megalithic Celtic stone monoliths and monastic ruins. “SAQA Primal Forces: Earth" discusses how all life ultimately relies on the earth below us. Through “The Roots and Refuge Series," artist Valerie C. White encourages the audience to consider ‘roots’ as a metaphor for human life. Like people, roots are intertwined and interconnected.

Roots & Refuge

TREE STUDY #1 by Valerie C. White, "The Roots and Refuge Series"

The Dynamic Artform of Quilting

Quilters are amazing artists who each use the dynamic artform of quilting to share their unique human experiences with the world.  Through their stories, we learn more about all of humanity, and ultimately, become more human ourselves!


Which exhibits are on your must-see list? Share how you celebrate quilting in #PaducahCreativeCity!

The National Quilt Museum is proud to present these stories to a wider audience, both through the museum experience in Paducah and new virtual platforms like Quilt Museum Digital. Preview the full exhibit schedule and make plans to visit in 2021.

More Inspiration: 10 Ways to Celebrate Quilting in Paducah | Discover Downtown: Arts, Restaurants & More

Portions of this article were featured in the International Journal of Crafts & Folk Art published by Paducah's fellow UNESCO Creative City, Jinju, South Korea (Crafts & Folk Art).