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Endangered Species Quilt Exhibition Opens June 19 at Four Visitor Centers

Photo for: Endangered Species Quilt Exhibition Opens June 19 at Four Visitor Centers

Hine's emerald dragonfly quilt by Meena Schaldenbrand. (Photo courtesy of Donna DeSoto)

One of the most anticipated Forest Preserve District of Will County events of 2021 will be the arrival of the “Inspired by Endangered Species” quilt exhibition.

The exhibition will run from June 19 through July 25 at four Forest Preserve District visitor centers. (See below for locations and hours.)

This national touring exhibition highlights the plight of vulnerable flora and fauna from around the world through colorful 24-inch-by-24-inch quilted panels.

The handmade quilts vividly depict plants and animals that are teetering on the brink of extinction unless action is taken to aid their dwindling populations. The Hine’s emerald dragonfly, the Karner blue butterfly, the rusty patched bumble bee, and the western prairie fringed orchid are just a few of the species highlighted in the exhibit that are local to Will County.

"We are very excited to welcome the Inspired by Endangered Species Quilt Exhibition to the Forest Preserve District of Will County in Summer 2021," said Jenna Newcomb, the Forest Preserve's supervisor of permitting and recreation. 

"We hosted the National Parks Quilt Exhibition back in 2018 and it was a huge success," she added. "We are expecting an even greater turnout for this exhibition because of its focus on endangered animals all over the world; which not only fits our District mission but piques the interest of people who may not otherwise be interested in quilting. The array of quilts that will be on display are captivating and are sure to inspire those that make the trip to come view them."

The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of The Nature Foundation of Will County

Artistic and informative

The collection was coordinated by quilter, author and nature lover Donna DeSoto, who worked with educators and scientists to create a list of endangered species.

“Every day the news contained reports about species becoming endangered, on the precipice of extinction,” DeSoto said of the inspiration for the exhibit. “I wanted to do ‘Inspired by Endangered Species’ to communicate what we stand to lose if we don’t pay attention and take necessary steps to save animals and plants that are disappearing.”

The endangered species quilt exhibition is not her first. She has created other exhibitions on topics ranging from The Beatles and Elvis to the “Inspired by the National Parks” collection. The latter led to the endangered species exhibit because DeSoto heard from park rangers about the species that were in trouble. The whole idea is to get the word out in an artistic and informative way, she said.

“The reactions to this exhibit have been fantastic. Through these quilts, and through the book, artists are educating the public. A frequent comment is, ‘I had no idea that animal (or plant) is at risk.' Knowledge leads to awareness, and awareness brings action and then change!”

Soulful eyes

Participating quilters from around the country were each assigned a species that they could interpret in any design they wished. DeSoto said there are many wonderful quilts in this latest effort.

“I particularly love the quilts where the animals have soulful eyes, eyes that seem to say, ‘Help!’ Some of these include the Amur Leopard and the Snow Leopard (both by Ricki Selva), the Bornean Orangutan (by Laura Gilmartin), and the Polar Bear (by Luana Rubin).

“The creativity of the fiber artists ranges from painstaking detail to pure whimsy. They utilized a broad range of styles, techniques and materials to masterfully depict plants and animals in the space of just 24 square inches.”

Blending fiber art with nature is a magical combination, she added.

“Some of these quilts more resemble paintings. In fact, some of them were painted, on cloth. Possibilities are endless, and this collection is a wonderful showcase of talent and passion for the subject of endangered species. Please appreciate the work and dedication that went into making these works of art, but also please understand that we all must do our part to save these species.”

Viewing the Collection

A total of 182 beautifully crafted quilts will be featured at four Forest Preserve District visitor centers:

Each site will have 45 or 46 panels on display.

Visitors are welcome to take photos and videos of the collection. However, touching the quilts is not allowed. Quilt docents and Forest Preserve staff will be on site sharing quilt details and answering questions.

Exhibit Hours

  • Mondays: Closed
  • Tuesdays and Wednesdays: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Thursdays: 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Fridays and Saturdays: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Sundays: Noon-4 p.m. (Sugar Creek Administration Center is closed.)


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