Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Juried quilts carry on tradition at Kutztown Folk Festival

Carol Heppe was in the process of registering more than 2,000 quilts up until this past Tuesday, when judging was held for the 2013 Kutztown Folk Festival quilt sale. Only 75 to 80 of those quilts would be pulled from the lot for Tuesday's judges to select the top 24 for top honors and for the annual auction. From those top 24, four would be designated as the best of the show.

"Judging starts the minute they come through the door," Heppe said of the quilted creations. "We only accept those that pass initial inspection. …I saw some really fantastic quilts and some very worthy contenders."

Aside from some quilts being awarded for the "WOW" factor, Heppe said scoring touches on such aspects covering color, design, construction (quality of piecing, appliqué, quilting, borders, binding), and interpretation of traditional patterns, to name some.

A panel of five judges includes a creative director with a textile company in their quilt division, a quilt shop owner, a quilt teacher, two longtime and highly accomplished quilters, and a judge from other venues. Heppe said most are from outside the Kutztown area.

A real estate agent in Doylestown, Bucks Co., Heppe has been serving as the festival's quilt barn director for the past four years. She's been working with the festival longer than that. She's versed in the art of quilting and teaches the craft as well. Working the event, she said, is her vacation time.

"I think the most interesting thing with our quilts is the increasing quality of the quilts," said Dave Fooks, executive director of the Kutztown Folk Festival. "Carol has developed a judging system that includes education of the quilter as to what they can do to improve their design and workmanship for better prices and better sales, and it has been very successful. I feel very confident in saying that our top quilts are among the best quilts available anywhere in the country."

Now in its 64th year, the Kutztown Folk Festival begins Saturday and runs through July 7, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., on the Kutztown Fairgrounds in Berks County. In addition to Pennsylvania Dutch food, the Kutztown Folk Festival offers folk life and living history presentations, 220 nationally-recognized, juried folk artists and traditional American craftsmen, antiques and collectables, five stages of continuous entertainment, folk music, dancing, and a wide range of children's activities including the farmyard puppet theater. The traditional July 4th parade will be held with band concerts featuring patriotic music, plus other events.

All quilts can be viewed by visitors during the run of the festival. The quilt auction will be held July 6, at noon, on the Main Stage behind the Quilt Barn. The event is known to be well attended by large numbers of bidders from the Middle Atlantic region and beyond.

"I've seen quilts auctioned for up to $15,000," Heppe recalled. "A typical quilt can go anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars over the initial asking price."

The handmade quilts displayed at the festival -- ranging from crib size to king size -- reflect a Pennsylvania German tradition that is more than 150 years old. Many are made locally by Mennonite and Amish women in the Berks and Lancaster area, while others are made by quilters from Lehigh County.

"Everything on the racks is for sale," Heppe said of the event that has become recognized as the largest in the nation.

How a practical covering made from leftover material evolved into a prized work of art is an interesting story and reflects a proud heritage. In the middle of the 19th century, Pennsylvania Dutch women gathered for a social time that included sewing scraps of spare cloth together to make a blanket or cover. In those frugal days, people found a purpose for everything and nothing was wasted.

Over time, many colorful quilts were created and, as well as providing comfort and warmth, became tasteful decorations in Pennsylvania Dutch homes and, eventually, heirlooms passed through generations in families. The essence of creating quilts has changed very little since those early times. True Pennsylvania Dutch quilts are still handmade, representing countless hours of dedicated work.

Practical hands-on opportunities for visitors to help create a visitors quilt, one patch at a time, add to the fun at the festival. A demonstration quilt will be constructed by quilters from St. John's Church in Kutztown.

"Quilting is not a dying art. It's alive and well," Heppe said. "I would like visitors to leave overwhelmed and happy, and maybe motivated to come back and buy a quilt. People will become educated here. I want them to have an appreciation for what they've seen. They will be awed."

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It's a trip back to the 60s with "SHOUT!" described as a mod musical that brings back the sounds that made England swing. The show, created by Phillip George and David Lowenstein, is being presented by the MunOpCo Music Theatre beginning Friday through Sunday at the Scottish Rite Cathedral, 1533 Hamilton St., Allentown.

The female cast includes Jillian Rossi, Kristen Morgenstern, Geri Kery, Linda Sherer, and Terri Williams (choreographer). Advice columnist is portrayed by Darice Hoffmann.

Classic tunes such as "To Sir With Love," "Downtown," "Son of a Preacher Man," and "Goldfinger" boast new arrangements as the show travels back in time from 1960 to 1970, chronicling the dawning liberation of women.

According to MunOpCo, the show contains some suggestive language and subject matter which may not be appropriate for younger audience members.

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"The Art of John Lennon" is coming to Bucks County, beginning Friday through Sunday at Occasions at Union Square, 560 Union Square Drive, New Hope. The fundraising exhibit benefits the nonprofit FACT (Fighting AIDS Continuously Together) Bucks County organization.

The exhibit will include limited-edition lithographs, serigraphs and copper etchings of Lennon's works, including song lyrics.

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The Amazing Kreskin returns to the State Theatre in Easton on Friday at 8 p.m., with a showman's flair, a comedian's wit, and the capacities of a bona fide mentalist. The Montclair, N.J., native has been dramatizing the unique facets of the human mind for 60 years. His trademark is a mental test that has become the highlight of his performances all over the world, as he requests that his check be hidden somewhere within the venue he is appearing. If he fails to find it, he will forfeit his fee. There's even talk that Kreskin will evoke the venue's own Fred the Ghost with help from audience members.

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