Some might disagree, said one guild member, Ginny McGee, “but this is art.”
“Art on cloth,” said Carroll County historian Doug Mabry, who played an instrumental role in guiding those working to bring a quilt museum to Carrollton.
Fourteen years in the making, Saturday marked the leap from a conceptual idea to a physical presence when the Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum opened at 306 Bradley St. in Carrollton, appropriately enough in an old cotton warehouse. A big step forward, said West Georgia Quilters Guild member Jane Kingsley, for Carrollton to play a major role in the preservation of Georgia’s textile industry.
Kingsley, a Carrollton resident, Marilyn Osterkamp of Athens and a Mary Ross of Canton — the three remaining “pioneers” of the Southeastern Quilt and Textile Board — cut the ribbon Saturday morning to open the museum.
Osterkamp, who serves as president of the museum’s board of directors, thanked the Georgia Quilt Council for developing in the late 1990s the idea of a quilt museum in the state, and then pursuing that goal.
She also credited the local quilters.
“You girls are fabulous, you’ve worked very hard,” Osterkamp said. “You have provided us with beautiful quilts for our very first exhibit.”
“This day is a culmination of the work by so many different individuals, government agencies and interested parties over literally years,” said Jonathan Dorsey, executive director of the Carrollton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a great day, it’s a payoff to the work that everybody has done for so long.”
“This is going to be a tremendous economic impact on our community, and I can’t wait,” said Beverly Hammack, secretary of the museum board.
Hammack acknowledged the amount of work that lies ahead in growing the museum, but she did allow herself a sigh of relief now that it is finally open after so many years. “Tears of joy,” she said.
The next challenge, Hammack said, will be raising money for the museum.
In addition to its historic significance, Dorsey cited the economic value of the museum, which is expected to attract thousands of visitors annually — some estimates are as high as 50,000 — from throughout the nation. They’ll come not only for quilt exhibits, but for classes and workshops. And while here, they’ll spend money. The longer they’re here, the more money they’ll spend.
The Carrollton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau calculates a local economic impact of $100 a day per overnight visitor and $50 per day for day visitors.
“It adds two more things to what I call our tourism inventory that would give people yet another reason to visit,” Dorsey said. “And if they come here for some other reason, it gives them a reason to stay here longer, and hopefully they’ll spend more money if they spend more time. It is a benefit to everyone in the community, whether they are into quilts or textile history or not.”
The museum, currently, is not large. But Dorsey said it is far more important that the museum does actually exist, regardless of its size. Its space will expand in the future.
“Obviously, this is a small facility, but it is a huge step,” he said. “For so many years, there was a concept of what everybody wanted. This will be something that will grow. You can open the doors and sell tickets, and you have an address. That is more important than a theoretical museum. This is a physical museum that can be grown and marketed. You can’t really market something that you don’t have, and now we have something.”
Quilts on display for the museum’s first exhibit, “Celebrating 25 Years,” were made by members of the Carrollton-based West Georgia Quilt Guild.The next exhibit is scheduled for Nov. 3.
Long-range plans for the museum include extensive interpretive exhibits, classrooms and a gift shop.
The museum’s ribbon-cutting Saturday was followed by the official opening of the Textile Heritage Trail, a multi-county effort to increase awareness of the significant role textiles played in the economy and culture of West Georgia. The brick building housing the museum is the site of a former textile mill. One of five street kiosks designating significant Textile Heritage Trail sites in Carrollton is located in the museum parking lot.
The museum will observe regular hours Thursdays and Fridays noon to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. beginning Thursday, Sept. 20. Individual admission is $3. For group rates, a museum membership application and other information, visit www.southeasternquiltmuseum.com.