By Bo Emerson
When the Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum opened last fall in a modest 20- by 24-foot room in downtown Carrollton, the location was not nearly as big as the dreams of the founders.
One day, suggested board member Beverly Hammack, Carrollton will host something like the American Quilter’s Society’s annual show, which brings 36,000 visitors to Paducah, Ky., on a single spring weekend, filling the town’s hotels, swamping its restaurants and wrapping it in textile psychedelia.
And one day, the museum may build out the entire cotton warehouse where, in one corner, it currently makes its home.
In the meantime, the Georgia Quilt Council can congratulate itself on finally landing a brick-and-mortar headquarters for the state’s most beautiful quilts.
“Once the idea came about, it took us 14 years to get a permanent address,” said Hammack.
That location is in a partially renovated brick building just off the downtown square.
After the opening in September, the museum wasted no time launching exhibits, starting with a show of quilts made by the West Georgia Quilters Guild.
The museum also displayed work designed by youngsters from a local elementary school, embodying scenes from some of their favorite books, along with a group of works from adults called “Not Your Grandmother’s Quilt.”
The museum already has welcomed visitors from 28 Georgia towns, 14 states and a few foreign countries.
What they discover is the same thing New York Times critic Michael Kimmelmann learned about the quilts of Gee’s Bend, the little Alabama collective that put quilting on the national map: Not only are the best quilts “eye-poppingly gorgeous,” but they are art.
“I’m painting a picture,” Hammack said of her own freestyle work. “It just happens to be with cloth.”
Textiles were once the biggest industry in Carrollton — and elsewhere in Georgia — and a group of Georgia counties have banded together to pay homage to that history, creating the Textile Heritage Trail.
There are five informational kiosks along the section of the trail that runs through Carrollton, including one in the museum’s parking lot.
The quilter’s guild has hosted shows in the past at various locales, including the state Capitol, to help raise money for the museum.
But an actual street address makes applying for certain grants feasible.
It also helps Jonathan Dorsey bring people to town.
“Now we’re able to market an actual quilt museum, and not just the idea of a quilt museum,” said Dorsey, executive director of the Carrollton Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
Visitors arrive in a trickle now, but museum planners expect 50,000 a year eventually.
And, who knows? Maybe Paducah can be replicated in Carrollton.
The Kentucky gathering is “an awesome thing to behold,” said Robin Leeper, who moved her quilting supplies store, Qwiltz Quilt Shop, to Carrollton to be near the museum.
“One week a year, the quilters take over that town.”
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.