Looking Forward to the Next 25 Years

Looking Forward to the Next 25 Years

By Frank Bennett, CEOhead-shots-frank

As Friends of the Museum you are aware that The National Quilt Museum is celebrating its 25th year. This is not the anniversary of a building, but rather the anniversary of a promise. In 1991, Meredith and Bill Schroeder founded a museum with a mission. The mission was to introduce audiences around the world to the work of today’s quilter. As with all great things, at that time no one could have conceived of what the future was going to bring. Over the past 25 years hundreds of thousands of people have visited the Museum from all 50 US states and over 80% of the countries on earth. In 2015 alone, the Museum saw visitors from 48 countries on every inhabited continent. It has truly become a global destination museum.

Simply considering museum visitation only scratches the surface of the impact the Museum has had. In an average year the Museum is mentioned in over 300 publications of all kinds. Some recent notable mentions include Yahoo.com, National Geographic, Reuters, and The Chicago Tribune. Over time we have seen the Museum's media mentions increase in frequency and stature. First we saw greater numbers of mentions among well known art museums such as the following comment from The St. Louis Dispatch in 2008: “It’s not much different from visiting the Chicago Institute of Art. It’s breathtaking.”  More recently, over the last couple years the Museum has been showing up on lists of best museums of any kind. For example, in early 2016 Southern Living magazine named us one of the top 20 museums in the south.   This list included museums such as The Kennedy Space Center and The High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Also in 2016 we celebrated our 5th consecutive year as a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner, a recognition given to the top 10% of attractions globally.

Museum traveling exhibits have introduced thousands of people that would never make it to Paducah to the work of today’s quilters. Museum quilts have been included in exhibits around the globe. In 2016 alone art enthusiasts in Tokyo, Japan and Icheon, South Korea experienced quilting through museum artifacts. In past years museums including The Branigan Cultural Center, The Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum, and the Shafer Gallery have welcomed Museum exhibits.

In addition to visitors, the Museum’s education programs have introduced thousands of youth to quilting through programs such as the School Block Challenge, Quilt Camp, Junior Quilters, Textile artists club, and in school hands-on programs.

So what will the future bring? While it sounds like a cliché’ quite literally the sky is the limit. Visitation to the Museum continues to grow. 2016 is the 5th consecutive year of overall museum growth. As long as we can continue to expand our budget there is no reason this will not continue for many years to come. We have also expanded opportunities for visitors to become more immersed in the Museum. We now offer daily guided tours allowing people to learn much more about the Museum and the artwork. In addition, we now offer immersion programs in which nonquilters get to experience a small taste of quilting in a hands-on exercise in which they make their own quilt block. These experiences are available to groups as small as 10 people.

In addition to our in facility visitor programs, we are aggressively expanding the reach of our traveling exhibit programs. These programs allow people that will never make it to Paducah to experience the artwork in person.

Lastly, we are always expanding our educational opportunities. As schools continue to cut funding for art programs the demand for our programs continues to increase.

I am very excited about where the Museum is right now and even more excited about what the next 25 years will bring. As Museum Friends you are instrumental in making all of this possible. Let’s work together to continue the Museum’s growth over the next 25 years so even more people can experience the extraordinary work of today’s quilt community.