America The Beautiful

Inspired by the National Parks is an art quilt exhibit that honors one hundred years of U.S. national parks. I had a chance to see the 177 quilts in the exhibit at the end of September on an outing with fellow art quilters.

Despite the small size of most of the quilts, there was a lot to take in. Each of the 59 parks was represented by three quilts to show its flora, fauna, and landscape. Here’s the set for Acadia National Park.


I wish I could link to a website that showed all the quilts, but I gather the only way to see them outside of the show is the book.

I’ve grouped the photos I took by flora, fauna, and vista. My selections are based on artistic preferences, so some parks are more represented than others.  Also, I’m showing only photos for which I can find attribution. I tried to photograph that information, but sometimes I goofed. The names of the park and artists can be seen if you hover your pointer over the photos.


The most effective quilts depicted the flora in situ. Some of the quilts showed the plants on a plain background, which I didn’t think was as effective.


As you can see, many of the animals are on the whimsical side. The javelina has expressive eyebrows, the elk looks like it just had a collision with a wealthy dowager, the owls seem to be part of a day of the dead gala, and the vole is far more anthropomorphic than the Parks Service might have expected.


The vistas lean toward realism, yet some draw from modern quilting and improvisational piecing. Check out the whale’s tail in the quilting on the Channel Islands quilt.

I particularly admired the flora quilt for Haleakala Park in Hawaii. It combined a branch of sandalwood, the tree in a landscape, and stylized branches in a Hawaiian quilt.


You can see the exhibit’s schedule here. We spent an illuminating few hours studying the quilts, which showed just about every technique in the art quilter’s toolbox.


Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Quilt Shows

4 responses to “America The Beautiful

  1. THanks for sharing these. You know what I would enjoy — quilts of ROCKS and LICHEN!! 🙂 Looks like a fun exhibit to visit.

    • Actually, there were some quilts that featured rocks – very large ones. The variety of ways those rocks were portrayed brought home to me how hard it is to give that sense of hard edges and heft. Some of the fabric choices didn’t quite work. I recall some quilts showed toadstools and other very earthy flora, but the color palette wasn’t a show stopper.

  2. Jane

    Joanna, I saw the “Inspired By” exhibition last week at Lake Farmpark with a friend and thoroughly enjoyed the range of styles, techniques, and interpretations. It was especially interesting to see quilts inspired by parks I have visited. I took advantage of my digital camera capabilities to snap just the label separately of any quilts I shot. I plan to get the book not only for pictures of the quilts I didn’t shoot but also for the backstory of each quilt. I hope anyone living close enough to NE Ohio to get to the exhibition to see it before it ends tomorrow (Wed 10/5) can do so. It’s not only a good exhibition but quite a coup for an Ohio venue to be one of a relative handful of stops on this 2-year nationwide tour.

    • I concur with your endorsement of this exhibition, but am disappointed at the lack of PR for this venue. I found out once we were there that it was quilt vendors’ weekend, but nowhere on the park’s website or elsewhere was that mentioned. The vendors looked like business was sparse. Families with small children who were there for the harvest weekend weren’t the most likely customers.

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