New York Quilt Project

Since 1961, the American Folk Art Museum in New York City has been shaping an understanding of self-taught art through its exhibitions, publications, and educational programs. As a center of scholarship, the museum showcases the creativity of individuals whose singular talents have been refined through experience rather than formal artistic training, and considers the historical, social, and artistic context of American culture. Its collection includes more than eight thousand artworks dating from the eighteenth century to the present, and ranges from compelling portraits and dazzling quilts to powerful works by living self-taught artists in a variety of mediums.

The American Folk Art Museum was in the vanguard of the renewed appreciation of quilts that flowered in the 1970s and that continues unabated into the present. From its beginnings, the museum’s mission was grounded in the recognition of the artistic merits of the works that it collected and exhibited. Quilts were occasionally on view during the institution’s first decade, but it was not until 1972 that an exhibition entirely devoted to textile arts was presented: “The Fabric of the State” examined textiles, including quilts, made specifically in New York.

The American Folk Art Museum achieved status as a major center of American quilt artistry under the leadership of Robert Bishop, a gifted director (1977–1991) with a profound belief in the deserved place of quilts in the art canon. Bishop’s ambitions for the institution immediately broadened the scope of interest with the 1976 exhibition “Hawaiian Quilts: Treasures of an Island Folk Art” and culminated in the establishment of The Great American Quilt Festival in New York City.

In 1985, the museum launched the New York Quilt Project, another major initiative intended to document New York’s rich quilt legacy. Under the direction of Folk Art Institute Registrar Phyllis A. Tepper, this mammoth undertaking recorded six thousand quilts in forty-five quilt-documentation days held throughout the state. Highlights were featured in the 1992 book New York Beauties: Quilts from the Empire State and exhibited at the museum in 1994. A number of spectacular quilts discovered during the New York Quilt Project are now in the permanent collection of the American Folk Art Museum.
Records for each of the six thousand documented quilts include images of the quilts themselves, as well as personal stories, histories associated with the quilts and quiltmakers, and information about techniques, patterns, and materials. This data has been indexed in the Quilt Index thanks to a generous grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources.
Credits and Acknowledgements
New York Quilt Project (1988–1994) organized by  Phyllis A. Tepper, Lee Kogan, Jacqueline M. Atkins, and the American Folk Art Museum.
Funding to digitize the New York Quilt Project and contribute data to the Quilt Index generously provided by the Council on Library and Information Resources.

Project description provided by American Folk Art Museum.

Project Website

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