The History of the Museum
In 1997, quilter and La Conner resident Rita Hupy founded the “La Conner Quilt Museum” on the second floor of the historic Gaches Mansion. Rita was just one of a growing community of quilters who were seeking a space in which to display the the works of local, national, and international quilters. After forming a Board of Directors for the new museum, the Museum gained nonprofit status as a 501(c)3 and began paying rent to the Town of La Conner for the use of the Mansion.
The very first exhibit at the young museum was a display of antique quilts from the collection of Ann Bodle Nash, an appraiser and avid collector. Miwako Kimura of Japan guest-curated the first international exhibit at the museum less than one year after it opened. Kimura, who was director of the Hatsunagi-Kai Quilt Club of Tokyo, helped acquire Japanese quilts for the exhibit titled “Japanese Folk Textile Quilts” in summer of 1998. Other exhibits during that first year included “Beautiful British Columbia,” which featured works from the Vancouver B.C. Quilters Guild, and a display of works from members of the Applique Society.
By early 2005, the Museum had hosted over 64 exhibits of work from regional, national and internationally-known quilters and fiber artists. Two big decisions were made that year–one was to expand the mission (and title) of the museum to include “textiles,” and the other was to purchase the deteriorating Gaches Mansion from the Town of La Conner.
Over the next nine years the building went through numerous repairs and restorations, ending in an $85,000 interior restoration in 2013. The final work brought the total restoration funded to nearly $450,000.
The first annual Quilt & Fiber Arts Festival was hosted in 2006 and continues the first weekend in October each year. 120-150 entries are received for this spectacular exhibit from approx. 140 artists around the world. 2017''s Festival will have a very different feel, in honor of our 20th Anniversary, with an even larger scale Festival in planning for 2018.
By 2008, the Museum was staying open 5-7 days a week and employed a full-time director, a curator/collections manager, an administrative assistant, and a weekend staff person. Work performed under the HCPF grant was finished in June of 2009, but the museum still faced over $300,000 worth of restoration work to improve the Mansion and expand storage space to accommodate a growing permanent collection of quilts and textile works.
Leading up to the Museum's 20th Anniversary in 2017, the organization went through a re-evaluation of it's mission and purpose.