Over the past few years, quilting has made a big comeback as an art for all ages. The two exhibits in Peoria this month are proof of its resurgence in popularity. The Gems of the Prairie Quilters, a 220-member Peoria quilt guild, host the 35th Anniversary National Quilting Association Quilt Show at the Peoria Civic Center June 24 to 26. "The exhibit includes 350 competition quilts and wearable art, and a special exhibit will feature award-winning quilts from previous shows," said Sue Wozniak of the Gems. "Competition quilts will be judged on artistic quality, use of color, and quality of workmanship by certified quilt judges."

This show will be an opportunity to view the work of internationally famous quilt makers, she said. "The viewer will experience a visual feast of color and texture. A variety of styles and techniques, including traditional pieced and appliqué quilts, as well as art quilts, using hand dyed fabrics and embellishments, will be included in the exhibits."

One special event during the show is the Little Quilt Auction, which is open to the public. "Little Quilts are miniatures, doll quilts, and small wall hangings donated by NQA members for the auction," Wozniak explained. "The Little Quilts can be viewed on the show floor Thursday and Friday, where silent bids can be placed. A live auction of the best of the Little Quilts will take place in the Marquette Ballroom of the Hotel Pere Marquette at 7 p.m., June 25. Proceeds from the Little Quilt Auction fund the National Quilting Association grant program, which supports the furtherance of quilt education, documentation, and craftsmanship."

Throughout the three-day event, numerous lectures, demonstrations, and workshops will be conducted by internationally recognized quilt educators. Registration for these events is required; information can be found at www.nqa quilts.org/peoria.

Wozniak said the National Quilting Association was established to create, stimulate, maintain, and record an interest in the making, collecting, and preserving of quilts. "The not-for-profit organization promotes educational and philanthropic endeavors through quilts. The Gems of the Prairie Quilters is a chapter of the National Quilting Association, and among our activities is two annual service projects. Guild members make more than 100 neonatal quilts that are donated to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois. The Little Gems Quilt Project ensures every child treated by St. Jude receives his or her own handmade quilt. Service quilts will be exhibited during the show at the Peoria City Hall and the Peoria Public Library during the month of June."

Daily admission to the 35th Anniver-sary National Quilting Association Quilt Show, expected to draw 8,000 to 10,000 people, is $8.

A second quilt event is "A Patchwork Presence," which is exhibited at the Peoria Art Guild May 28 to June 26. The exhibit showcases art quilts intended to be hung and admired on the gallery wall.

"These aren’t the kind of quilts you snuggle under when you have the sniffles," said PAG Director of Exhibits Michelle Traver. "They’re more like paintings, yet they’re derived from the historical tradition of craft. These artists use fiber as their medium; they dye, paint, cut, stitch, and use other forms of embellishment. Quilting the surface adds a depth to these works; however, that’s quite different than painting. The work is innovative, intricate, and contemporary."

"A Patchwork Presence" complements the 35th Anniversary National Quilting Association Quilt Show at the Peoria Civic Center. Related events include workshops on quilt-top design and machine embroidery, as well as a discussion with Jennifer Chiaverini, nationally known author of the popular Elm Creek Quilt series.

Art quilts have become a highly collectible artwork, according to Traver. "Not just for the intrinsic beauty, but for the time and work involved. This is truly a labor of love."

"Time isn’t a factor when I work," agreed M. Joan Lintault, the internationally renowned quilter who juried the exhibit. "I base my work on geological rather than TV time."

"A Patchwork Presence" includes the work of Lintault, who has exhibited her quilts at such prestigious venues as The White House, the Smithsonian Institute, and the American Crafts Museum. She’s also been the recipient of research grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fulbright Program, and the Illinois Arts Council.

In addition to Lintault, "A Patchwork Presence" contains works by six other artists: Debra Danko of Michigan, Hanna Hall of Ohio, Jill LeCroisette of California, Eliza Johnson of Alabama, Lisa (Nelson) Raabe of Peoria, and Jim Smoote of Chicago.

Raabe has two pieces in the show. "I spent an entire year creating ’LifeWheel’ and wove all the fabrics myself," she said.

Though she studied sculpture and painting at the Art Institute of Chicago, Raabe said she’s been a weaver most of her life. "My pieces reflect what I’m going through at the time. Like a writer editing a story, making quilts is a process that allows you to add and subtract until you get what you want."

For more information, call 637-2787. AA!