Friday, January 20, 2017

An Overview on Showing Quilt Art
by Nancy Turbitt

SAQA NM Regional exhibit New Mexico:Unfolding premiering at the NM Statehouse in Santa Fe, April 2013

Exhibitions are a major part of my concern as a studio artist. As a result of my involvement in the regional works of SAQA's Massachusetts/Rhode Island Region for the last three years, I have juried, curated, and exhibited in several shows. I personally had never exhibited my work before 2013. I often announce exhibits as they come up on this blog, so I thought it might be useful to discuss a few things here that I have discovered since I have been active in SAQA.

For those who are creating art in their studios on a fairly regular basis it may at one point become a priority to exhibit your work. How will the public know what is being created unless it is shown some way in a public forum? These days we have options. We can look to exhibit alone - a solo exhibit, with colleagues - a private group exhibit, with SAQA - a regional or all-SAQA exhibit (members only), online exhibitions - through SAQA's website or other online forums for exhibit or lastly in a juried group exhibit for a museum or gallery.

Fiber Exhibit at IMAGO in Warren, RI

Let's talk about the options. Solo exhibits are a necessary part of any artist's journey. Sometimes they can be a rather easy endeavor but they always take work. Your local library, community center, school, church, or business can often be a great way to ease into a solo experience. When you have a body of work that is photographed well in a portfolio, a website with your work included, or a brochure that shows a good deal of your work, you may want to start out looking in your own community. Of course, galleries and museums may be a bit trickier. They will want to see your resume as well with a proven track record of exhibitions under your belt. In the smaller venues you can expect that you will be responsible for hanging your own work and taking it down. You will also have to do your own publicity. This leads me to discuss adding colleagues to your exhibit.

Solo Exhibit by Dawn Allen

Two or more artists with work which shows well together may want to approach community exhibition spaces as a group. This splits the workload, splits the expense of publicity, and adds depth and quantity to the exhibit. Expect that the venue will want to see a representation of all artists work and may, in the case of an art center or gallery, expect resumes from all artists involved. This is a great way for a novice to ease into the exhibition scene, with the security of other artists included.

Often you will find calls for entry directly from galleries and museums around the country. Visions and Quilt National are two very well known biennial exhibitions calling on very experienced master quilt artists and in the case of Visions, the museum's membership. There are always smaller, less daunting, exhibitions that you can find to enter. In our region The Whistler House Museum of Art, NEQM, IMAGO in RI, the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown, Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, ArtSpace Maynard and The Fuller Craft Museum to name a few are amongst the venues which have hosted textile exhibits in the last few years. Outside our region venues like the Texas Quilt Museum, the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum and repeating shows like Quilts=Art=Quilts at the Schweinfurth Art Center in NY, Art Quilt Elements at the Wayne Art Center in PA are all places you can look to for calls for entry. Quilt shows like IQF in Houston and Chicago, and MQX in Manchester, NH are another way to search for ways to exhibit. Some venues or shows may require you to join as a member adding to the cost of entry.

Show catalog for a Texas Quilt Museum exhibit in 2014

SAQA offers some of the best opportunities for a quilt artist to show their work. If you are a member you can enter any all-SAQA call for entry for the simple price of the entry fee. If you are lucky enough to be accepted, your work will travel all over the US and sometimes even abroad. SAQA assumes the cost of travel from venue to venue, the cost of insurance once they have received your quilt and the cost of all publicity including a full color catalog book. You simply have to get it to them and that is your only expense. There were 16 all-SAQA exhibits traveling in the year 2016. It's a great deal and offers a wonderful opportunity, if you jury in.  

SAQA's Seasonal Palette at NEQM

There has been a great deal of discussion about the all-SAQA shows lately. The last two big shows had over 500 entries each (SAQA allows up to 3 entries per artist per show) and accepted only a small amount of artwork (under 40). I won't say it is easy to get in. Look around at all the amazing quilt artists you know and whose work you see publicized by SAQA and other venues. You will be competing with these artists for space in a show. Attention to the theme, professional photography, and following directions from the prospectus, are very important when entering a big show.

Regional SAQA shows are sometimes easier to get in because not as many entries come in for them. Each SAQA member belongs to the region that they live in as well as a another region of their choice. A member can enter any exhibit from both the regions that they are signed up for. Remember, if you choose the UK as a second region and you jury into their regional exhibit, you have to assume shipping & insurance to get it to the UK. Regions do not have as much money for their exhibits, only what comes in from the entry fees. Often you will have to assume shipping and insurance costs for both sending your work out to SAQA and it's return to you. The last two MA/RI exhibits have created a catalog and several pieces (7 total) have sold in 2016 from the venues in which they were hanging.

Sue Polansky & Carol Vinick at the SAQA MA/RI Regional exhibit Art As Quilt, Highfield Hall, Falmouth, MA

All this leads me to say that it does take some work finding the best places to exhibit and it takes a considerable amount of dedication to getting your work exhibited. But there is nothing more satisfying to an artist than seeing their work hanging in an exhibit. The best place I have found to find calls for entry is actually the SAQA website. SAQA has a great network of information about not only their own all-SAQA and regional shows but all the other big and smaller shows as well. I have often found links for the prospectus for other than SAQA exhibits on the website at

Coming up for all-Saqa shows are:
Textile Posters: Communication & Commentary, Deadline: January 31, 2017

...and newly announced all-SAQA exhibits for next year:
Dusk to Dawn, Deadline: January 31, 2018
Metamorphosis, Deadline: February 28, 2018

some other exhibits coming up quick:
Interpretations: Conversations, Visions Art Museum, Deadline: January 31, 2017
Pathfinders: New Territories, So Utah Museum of Art, Deadline: February 1, 2017
Fantastic Fibers, Yeiser Art Center, Deadline: February 4, 2017
ARTQUILTSrespite, PAQA South, Deadline: February 10, 2017

...and a bit further down the calendar:
Wild West: 21st-Century Quilts Salute the American Frontier, Texas Quilt Museum,     Deadline: March 1, 2017
Art Olympia 2017, Tokyo, Japan, Deadline: March 15, 2017

Go to Calls for Entry (all) at to check out their list of many more exhibitions. 

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