Bethel's Kauffman Museum showcases 'Gift of Quilting'By Melanie Zuercher
NORTH NEWTON, Kan. — For many Mennonites, quilting is more than a recreational activity. It represents a rich tradition and a gift to be passed from generation to generation.
A new exhibit at Kauffman Museum on the Bethel College campus recognizes the historical, cultural and artistic value of quilting in Mennonite communities. It’s also the first time Kauffman Museum has had a special exhibit focusing on historic quilts.
“The Gift of Quilting” showcases 18 quilts that Mennonites have donated to Kauffman Museum over the years. Many have never been displayed publicly. An exhibit brochure describes each quilt’s history and design.
Most of the quilts have origins or strong connections to the Harvey, Marion and McPherson County area of south central Kansas, and most were donated by people from the area.
For example, the late Linda Balzer Rupp of Moundridge found a Plume Appliqué and a Double Irish Chain quilt (donated to Kauffman Museum by her family, now of North Newton) in the Moundridge home of her step-mother-in-law, Barbara Koller Rupp, after she died. The Double Irish Chain may have originally been made in Germany and handed down.
Another Double Irish Chain (with strawberry appliqué) on display was made by Katharina Schrag (Mrs. Peter A.) Wedel of Moundridge when she was 15, about 1880. Katharina was born in Volhynia, Russia, and moved to Moundridge at age 9. The quilt is almost certainly the oldest existing one made by Russian Mennonite immigrants to Kansas.
An Indian Wedding Ring (a variation of the Double Wedding Ring) quilt donated by Art and Frieda Banman of North Newton was pieced by Mary Rempel Friesen and quilted by her mother, Augusta Ewert Rempel, in 1925 on a farm northeast of Hillsboro.
A red-and-green appliquéd and pieced quilt that was featured in Quilting Today in 2001 was made in 1957 by Anna Risser Goebel when she was 18 and living in Ohio. She married at that age and moved to Moundridge with her husband. Lorene K. Goering of North Newton donated a crib quilt handmade for Robert C. Goering. Robert was born in China to General Conference Mennonite Church mission workers Sam J. and Pauline Goering.
“We are pleased that Mennonite families continue to choose Kauffman Museum as the repository for their family heirlooms, including handmade quilts,” said Kauffman Museum director Rachel Pannabecker. “Every year, quilts made before 1950 are donated to our collection.”
Guest curator for “The Gift of Quilting” is Karrie Peterson, a Bethel senior from Pella, Iowa, who will graduate in May with a degree in history and social science. Graphic designer for the exhibit is Julie Miller, a 2005 Bethel graduate.
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