Contemporary Art Quilts at the James J. Hill House

James J. Hill, railway magnate, completed his showcase house in St. Paul, MN in 1891. One reason he built it is to house his very impressive art collection; on a previous tour, a guide told us that the value of the art was worth more than the house — and this is a house of 36,000 square feet. The Minnesota Historical Society owns the house, and offers tours. I visited with a friend, to see this exhibit. We had both toured before, so opted to just see the art exhibit.

This is the entry hallway (we are restricted to the roped off area I’m in for the limited gallery access):

The room to my immediate right is this, where tours start:

And the room we came to see, the Art Room:

Picture this room where the floors are literally packed to the ceiling with art, and sculptures in the center. The bars are original. There’s natural light with the ingenious shade above, and opposite the fireplace is the organ, added later:

On to the quilts! Below are my favorites. The first is Statue of Liberty Commemorative Quilt (1986), made by Carol Wagner of Roseville, MN. It won the Minnesota state prize at a quit show in honor of the Statue of Liberty’s centennial. The background quilting is names of women to remember.

The next is Minnesota Crazy (1988) by Jan Myers-Newbury of Pittsburgh.

This is Motherwort (1986) by Clare Dagerness of Moorehead, MN.

This silk quilt is Twentieth Century Silkie (2000) by Claudia Clark Myers of Duluth, MN.

This unfinished quilt is Mary’s Lake (1935) by Samuel Isaac Myers of Park Rapids, MN. Look at the detail shot!

Here’s Autumn Glow (2002), with fabric by Diane Bartels of Mound, MN, and the quilt by Sue Stein of White Bear Lake, MN.

Rosemary Root of South St. Paul made The Low That Brought the Snow and Cold to Minnesota (1984).

Different Views, Same Situation/Tree Series #9 (1995) is made by Nancy Gipple of Afton, MN.

I’m sorry for the odd angle, but this was the only way I didn’t get excessive reflections and glare; this is Earl Grey’s Quilt (1999) by Erica Spitzter Rasmussen of St. Paul, whom I met and whose work I enjoyed at the American Crafts Council, blog posts here and here. This quilt is Unryu rice paper and Earl Grey tea bags.

And the quilt that drove my visit, Minnesota Inspired (2010), created by Nancy Eha of Stillwater, MN specifically for this exhibition.

And to wrap up, a few detail shots of the Art Room for inspiration — the mosaic around the fireplace and heating system vents.

If you’re interested in seeing more images of the house, the Historical Society has a Flickr set.

Nancy Eha at Contemporary Art Quilts exhibit

On Thursday, January 20th, bead and mixed media artist Nancy Eha will be at the artist reception for Contemporary Art Quilts. The curator will speak at 6:30 p.m., followed by a question and answer period with the artists. The exhibit is at the James J. Hill house (magnificent house of the railroad baron), and includes free house tours.

Nancy had closeups of her beaded quilt here; I love the state symbols — wow on the morel mushroom and the walleye! The Minnesota Historical Society, which owns the Hill house, has a video of the quilts here. Nancy’s quilt is at 1:13. The room you see in the beginning, where the quilts are displayed, is the art room. Hill had a room displaying art, with the art displayed floor to ceiling, frame next to frame.

I’ve toured this Gilded Age mansion, which sits at the crest of a hill (MHS page here, which links to some Flickr images), and it’s quite an awesome house. Back to the art room (which also has a pipe organ): the tour guide told us that the value of the art on display was more than the value of the house. This is a 36,000 square foot house with all the most modern conveniences, with 42 rooms, 13 bathrooms, 22 fireplaces — and had more value in the art than the house. Can you imagine?

The quilts are on display until March 1st.

Please help the 9/11 Bead Quilt Project!

Photo by Julia Pretl

Andrea Adams, the creator and force behind the 9/11 Memorial Bead Quilt, is asking for some help. The Bead Quilt was a project to remember and honor 9/11 victims, their families, and the heroes that emerged. It began with Andrea hoping to make a small quilt, and ended up with 576 squares from beaders around the world. Andrea and volunteers mounted the squares into 9 panels, 3 in memory of the World Trade Center, 3 for the Pentagon, and 3 for the plane that went down in Pennsylvania.

Photo by Julia Pretl

The Quilt has toured for 9 years and 60,000 miles. I was privileged to be part of it, assisting in its stop in Minneapolis 8 years ago, hosted at the Hennepin County Government Center, and sponsored by the Hennepin County Libraries. I was honored to be part of this project, and gratified to see the reactions of passers-by, to have them stop and honor the Quilt and whom it represents; it was mounted in a busy area and seen by people from all walks of life.

Photo by Julia Pretl

So here’s where I end this post: asking you to please consider contributing for the postage for their final journey to where they have been accepted into the permanent collection of the National September 11th Museum and Memorial, which is being built on the World Trade Center site. The Quilt weighs nearly 300 pounds, and shipping costs about $500. The Quilt’s fund has about half that. It is to be shipped by the end of the year.

On the How Can I Help? page of the Bead Quilt is a PayPal donate button, or you can send contributions directly to the PayPal address of There is also a limited edition full-color catalog of the Quilt photographed by Julia Pretl with the artists’ statements,  as well as postcards of all the squares available.

Enjoy looking at the Bead Quilt on its webpage, and please consider helping to send the Bead Quilt home. Thank you!