That’s the name of the exhibit I saw in New York City on Monday. It’s an accurate description. The variety that was shown was breathtaking as was the sheer number of quilts hanging. Six hundred and fifty-one, they say.
The brochure says these are just ordinary quilts. They were meant to be used rather than being saved for company. Some are signed, some are dated, and all are magnificent in their simplicity.
The quilts shown all belong to one woman, Joanna Rose. She prefers to think of herself as an “accumulator” rather than a collector. She says she’s really a treasure hunter. She began buying quilts when she could get them for $5 or $10 each. As with everything else, prices began to increase. She said, “Gradually, quilts that cost me $5 or $10 went up to $15 or $20 and then $50. When they got to $150, you had to think twice.”
So how does an individual get The American Folk Art Museum to sponsor a quilt show? And where does one find such a building – a building spacious enough to display The Rose Collection?
Perhaps if you were married to Daniel Rose, a man reputed to be one of the nicest and smartest millionaires in New York City, it wouldn’t be such a huge issue as for most ordinary folks. And if it were your 80th birthday and the one thing you wanted was “something never seen before and a gift for New York,” your loving husband might just want to make that happen.
Joanna Rose wanted to see her red and white quilts all at once. She had no idea how many she had until the photographer started shooting pictures. She did know that she had no two quilts exactly alike.
They hired Thinc Design to mount the exhibit. They transformed the 55,000-square-feet of space in Wade Thompson Drill Hall at the Armory in Manhattan into towers and spirals of quilts hanging from the rafters.
Special rods were customized so two quilts could hang from each, back to back. The quilts spiraled down and one could stand in the center and gaze up or one could walk around the outside of the spiral for a different view.
Quilts were hanging on the back wall, folded on six chairs placed in a circle in the center of the hall, and some were spread out on stage-like areas that were knee-high. All were lit to show off the exquisite hand quilting.
For five days, Joanna Rose’s birthday gift was shared with anyone willing to walk through the doors of the Armory. There was no admission fee to the public. And quilters came. They came in pairs, small groups and by the busload. More than 15,000 came through the doors. Maybe not all were quilters, but probably most.
Almost everyone I saw walk through the doors stopped upon entering the hall. They stopped and stared, most with their jaws dropped at the sheer beauty and enormity of the display.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and all one can do after seeing it is say, “Thank you, Mrs. Rose. Thank you!”