Inside the entrance of the Performing Arts Center at Winona State University campus hangs a large 74-inch by 74-inch quilt. Twelve star blocks border a hand-appliqued center image depicting a red and gold hot air balloon rising over green hills and a bright blue river. Across the balloon hangs a golden banner reading, “Get Carried Away!”
Since November, five volunteers have been constructing this quilt, which represents the 13th season of Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF). A majority of the quilts from past years are currently on display at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum until July 31.
“I’m impressed,” Ann Kendrick said, admiring this year’s finished product. “I was really happy with it.”
This is Kendrick’s second year on the Will Quilt Team — this year a five-person team that created the quilt. A long-time quilter, she created the center image on last year’s quilt — a large tree with 12 branches to represent GRSF’s 12th season. “When this pattern was presented, I volunteered to do the applique because I like creating the different colors and the whole process. Nobody argued with me,” she laughed.
Since 2011, several volunteers from the Friends of Will have created a quilt to represent the season. Friends of Will Co-Chair Mary Alice Anderson has been part of the Will Quilt Team since its beginning. She explained that GRSF Founding Artistic Director and current Director Paul Barnes had asked the costumers to create a quilt that would be used in a raffle. That year, the costumers and volunteers created a patchwork quilt made entirely of costume fabric.
“When I took over about three years ago, I thought you can’t get a better metaphor for what we think of the festival than a group of Midwestern quilters who were willing to make a work of art to help support their favorite theater festival,” GRSF Managing Director Lee Gundersheimer said.
Every year, costume fabric is incorporated, but the amount of costume fabric varies from year-to-year — two out of the six quilts were made entirely of costume fabric while Anderson said that the past several years only feature some of the material. For example, this year, Kendrick said that the centers of the stars were made from costume fabric as well as the hot air balloon and parts of the hills and river. “You can’t use only the costume fabric because it’s so hard to work with because of the texture,” she said. She explained that the costume fabric — silks and brocades — was thicker and provided less give than quilting cottons.
After selecting the fabrics, Kendrick started with the white background before layering on different shades of blue and green to make up the hills and water before adding the balloon’s basket. She said that it took her two tries to make the balloon, which posed a challenge to get all of the points of the different stripes that make up the balloon to meet.
Anderson said that the design for this year’s quilt is based off the season artwork — a mosaic created by Lanesboro artist Bebe Keith that features elements from GRSF’s three shows. Three seasons ago, GRSF began commissioning a local artist to create art that represented the themes in the shows that season. Gundersheimer said that quilters began to use the season art to inspire their design. “Here we have the performers … inspiring the fine artist who is then turning around and inspiring the quilt art,” he said.
On July 26, the quilt will be raffled of at Callithump, a GRSF fundraiser from 7-10 p.m. Tickets for Callithump cost $30 and are still available for purchase online at grsf.org or by calling the box office 507-474-9000. Raffle tickets are available at a variety of places including the GRSF office on East Third Street, before and during every performance, or at GRSF’s free Concerts on the Green.