Baran-Unland: What is the backstory for such an elaborate exhibition?
Prince: Quilters Unlimited member and nature lover Donna DeSoto of Fairfax, Virginia spearheaded an effort in 2015 to create a quilt exhibition in honor of the National Park Service’s 2016 centennial celebration.
Baran-Unland: I understand the Forest Preserve District of Will County is the first to exhibit all 177 quilts in Illinois since the exhibit began touring in 2016. How did the district get involved?
Prince: I received an email from the National Association for Interpretation (NAI) about the book “Inspired by the National Parks, Their Landscapes and Wildlife in Fabric Perspectives.” NAI did a book review and it intrigued me.
I then looked at the website, www.npscentennialquilts.com, and realized that there was a traveling exhibit. It was a good fit, because the exhibit aligns with the Forest Preserve’s mission to conserve and promote an appreciation for open space as well as the District’s ongoing initiative to bring in temporary displays of this kind.
Plus, on a personal note, my mom is quilter and I appreciate the skill and artistry involved. It wasn’t long before I reached out to the exhibit coordinator Donna DeSoto.
Baran-Unland: Will non-quilters enjoy this event too? May children attend?
Prince: Non-quilters are most welcome. The exhibit is perfect for a variety of audiences, including nature lovers and supporters of the National Park Service. It’s really for anyone who has an appreciation for fabric art and/or our natural areas. Children are definitely welcome as well.
Baran-Unland: Where will they be displayed?
Prince: The quilts will be on view simultaneously at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon, Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville, Plum Creek Nature Center in Crete Township, and Sugar Creek Administration Center in Joliet.
Baran-Unland: What an undertaking – dividing them among four locations. How did you decide what to place where?
Prince: Some of the quilts were randomly assigned to visitor centers. Others were placed at the best location based on theme. For instance, Isle a la Cache Museum was a natural to get the Voyageurs National Park quilts because the museum celebrates the 18th-century French fur trade era.
The salamander quilt belonging to Canyonlands National Park will be housed at Plum Creek because of its salamander mascot, Spot. Quilts reflecting water features made sense for Four Rivers.
And the bison quilt associated with the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is at Sugar Creek because of its proximity to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie's bison herd.
Distribution also was based on facility size.
For instance, Isle a la Cache has the fewest quilts because it has the least amount of wall space. But they're all in sets of three, no park is split apart.