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Great Plains ancestors portray diversity in quilts with 19 on display dating back to 1860s
History in stitches

Great Plains ancestors portray diversity in quilts with 19 on display dating back to 1860s

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KEARNEY — Thinking back to the pioneers and their journeys, it is hard not to also think of the beautiful quilts these people created. Some were practical, simply for protection from the harsh wind, and some were ornate, used as decoration and a sign of status. But regardless of the use, quilts are undeniably a staple of living on the Great Plains.

It is from the prominence of quilts in Nebraska that MONA Curator Teliza Rodriguez decided to use them as a way of telling our state’s history. “Stitching Time: Over 100 Years of Quilts in Nebraska,” opened at the MONA June 6 and runs until Sept. 14.

“We wanted a quilt show to cover 100 years that spanned from the 19th to the 21st century,” Rodriguez said.

The oldest quilt at the show represents the 1860s while the newest quilt there represents the current decade of 2010.

While there is at least one quilt from each decade over the time frame, some decades feature more than one.

“We wanted to get as many diverse quilts as possible,” Rodriguez said.

1910 to 1920 is a decade where two quilts are featured.

“One quilt is ornate and embellished, and has rich-looking tones and fabric. It’s clearly an heirloom of an upper-class family that was not used except for decoration. The other I pulled from 1910 is a newspaper quilt. The back is literally made with the Omaha World-Herald. Clearly it was used regularly by a low-income family. I liked the dichotomy,” Rodriguez said.

It is this kind of juxtaposition, and the diversity in the lives of those on the Great Plains that Rodriquez most enjoyed being able to portray with the quilts.

There are 19 quilts in the show. Five are being shown in vitrines as they could not be hung because of their delicate and aged nature. All of the quilts are on loan from different institutions around the state.

Organizations with quilts on loan include:

- Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Grand Island

- Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln

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- Nebraska Prairie Museum, Holdrege

- Anna Bemis Palmer Museum, York

- Heritage Center at the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation

- International Quilt Study Center, Lincoln

- The Quilted Conscience, project of the Grand Island Community Foundation and Lincoln Public Schools.

“We’ve never had so many different institutions working in partnership,” Rodriguez said.

A quilt created just recently in 2013 is also being featured. This quilt was made in Lincoln as a result of The Quilted Conscience Project. It was created from the dreams and memories of refugees from Karen.

John Sorensen, director of the project, originally created a film showcasing refugees from Sudan living in Grand Island. The project was focused around having the students connect with Grand Island residents through quilting about their pasts.

“These people may look very different from us, but they came to America for some of the same reasons — war, famine, a better life, all things your white, German grandparents many have come here for,” Sorensen said.

Because of the meaningful relationships the students and the teachers formed, the project has been replicated at different schools, which is how LPS created their own quilt.

Sorensen will be at MONA at 2 p.m. July 30 to give an introduction to his film and discuss the importance of the quilts on display.

“When looking at the quilts you can feel the hand of artists. I think story quilts touch the audience because the story quilts were touched by the artists,” Sorensen said. “There’s something permanent and very compassionate about it like a hug, which these younger people that have underwent such stress direly need.”

Not only are the stories of local refugees told in this quilt, but the diverse story of how Nebraska has become the state it is today is shown in the fabric of all the quilts on display. Experience these stories in the East Gallery at MONA. MONA is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.

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I think story quilts touch the audience because the story quilts were touched by the artists.”

John Sorensen

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