Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sisters: Jean Wells Keenan is the Toast of the Town

Jean Wells Keenan during the artist’s reception for her show at the High Desert Gallery in Sisters.

by Bill Volckening 

I should be sleeping right now. Big day (yikes!). It’s my first time attending the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Sisters, Oregon. Sisters is a small community in central Oregon with less than 2000 residents. But each summer in early July, the town transforms into a quilt mecca welcoming tens of thousands of visitors for Quilters Affair and the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. 

Approximately 1200 quilts are displayed outdoors during the quilt show, now in its 35th year. Quilt show founder and quilt guru Jean Wells Keenan displayed just a handful of quilts in her first show, and she wanted it to have the feel of an arts festival. After many years and tremendous growth, the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show remarkably maintains the feeling of an arts festival. 

The Oregon Quilt Project is here, and we’re trying a mobile quilt documentation all over town - but the real story is Jean Wells Keenan, who is absolutely the toast of the town! Keenan has been present at most of the events throughout the week, including Thursday’s artist’s reception at the High Desert Gallery, where she is showing recent work; an exuberant presentation by Ricky Tims later Thursday evening, and Friday’s picnic and quilt retrospective with Alex Anderson. During the evening, Karen Alexander and Mary Bywater Cross payed tribute to Keenan with news and notes about her induction in the Quilters Hall of Fame. And what a lucky guy I am - I had a seat toward the front!

Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims brought enthusiasm and humor to the quilt presentation at Friday’s picnic.

I’ve only been here for the last couple days, but it’s been going on all week - and what a mind-blowing experience! It’s serendipitous to be here for the first time when the town is celebrating Keenan, who has had such a significant and far-reaching positive impact. Quilt Show Director Ann Richardson, who appeared at the picnic to thank the sponsors and pay tribute to Keenan, also deserves much credit for the success of this amazing community event. - as do the hundreds of volunteers, staff, and community partners. It takes an army!

So, I’m ready for the main event! The camera battery is charged, I’ve got a flip-cam for shooting some video footage, sunscreen and extra towels. We’re setting up the Oregon Quilt Project booth early, so I really should try to get some sleep. I’ll be dreaming of an entire town covered head-to-toe in quilts. Sounds like heaven!

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