The art of Historical Wyoming

Museum and Quilt Guild share annual exhibit

From bison to sagebrush and cowboys to trains, Wyoming's history is full of iconic imagery, and many of these images have now been expressed in a creative new way in the Sweetwater County Historical Museum and Sweetwater County Quilt Guild's annual exhibit.

This year's quilt exhibit is the seventh annual collaboration between the museum and the Quilt Guild, and the theme is "Historical Wyoming."

The partnership between the two groups has been in place for almost as long as the Quilt Guild has been in existence. The guild is a group of people who were interested in quilting and decided to gather and make it official, forming a group that meets in Green River regularly to learn more about quilting and inspire on another's creativity, according to Guild President Nancy McConnell.

"We have a group of people that are just really generous about sharing their skills with others," McConnell said.

It didn't take long for the guild to start sharing their skills with the community as a whole, working with Museum Curator Amanda Benson to establish the quilt exhibit each year. The exhibit started with miniature quilts that could be easily displayed, then moved into doing a different theme each year, from patriotic to Wyoming Cowboys to historic "crazy quilts" to self portraits.

This year's theme, "Historical Wyoming," gave a specific concept but produced a unique variety of styles and subjects within the 13 quilts that are part of the display.

"You have kind of a wide open basis or theme for the quilt, and then you get everybody's interpretations," McConnell explained.

Not only is there a wide variety of imagery used for the quilts, but there is also a variety of techniques used. McConnell explained that different quilts in the exhibit used techniques like piecing, appliqué, or paper-piecing. Some use different machines and equipment that result in different styles as well.

"If you take a closer look, past the piecing, the stitching is really remarkable," Benson added, pointing out that many quilts use hand-stitching to create unique patterns.

Another aspect of the exhibit that impresses Benson every year is the variety in quilt sizes and styles that are all meant to be displayed in different ways. This sometimes requires the museum staff to get creative with the displays, as it did this year for two large quilts that the staff had to find room for.

"I think these are the biggest ones we've had so far," Benson said.

Other quilts range in size. Some are hung while others are stretched on canvas. In past years the exhibit has included clothing pieces as well.

"Quilting isn't just about blankets anymore," McConnell said, adding that the quilts are their own unique form of artistry.

"They take so many different shapes and forms," Benson agreed. "It really is art."

Sharing the art made by the community is one of the main reasons Benson enjoys doing the exhibit every year. She believes the museum should not only share the community's past, but also share what is being done and being created currently, and she wants others to be able to appreciate it.

"I want [people] to come and see what quilters can do," McConnell said. "Many people think a quilt is just one of those things that's made with squares and rectangles that you lie on a bed, and a lot of them are that, but there are a lot of other ways to make quilts and a lot of things you can do with them. A lot of them are art to hang on the wall. I think it's just fun to show the things that our people know how to do, to be inspired by them, to make you want to go home and try something like that yourself. And for people who just like to appreciate art, this is just our kind of art."

"I'm blown away every single year by these ladies," Benson said. "I'm always thoroughly impressed. And I want the community to see the same."

The quilt exhibit opened on March 1 and will run through May 4. The quilts can be viewed at the museum during regular hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free.


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