Quilt center celebrates expansion start, new endowed directorship

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The thousands of guests from around the world who each year visit the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln now look forward to seeing even more inside thanks to expansion of the museum.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln and University of Nebraska Foundation will celebrate the ground breaking of a 13,000 square-foot addition to Quilt House with a private reception on June 20, 2014.

The expansion, which was made possible by a $7 million gift from the Robert and Ardis James Foundation to the university’s Campaign for Nebraska, will feature new gallery space and additional room for quilt collection storage and care.

“When visitors come to Quilt House they always leave wanting more,” said Marjorie Kostelnik, dean of the College of Education & Human Sciences. “With this addition to the building made possible through the generosity of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation they will get their wish.”

Kostelnik said the university is also celebrating the arrival of Leslie Levy, the new executive director of Quilt House, who will help build the quilt collection in new and exciting ways.

Levy’s appointment as the inaugural Ardis and Robert James Executive Director of Quilt House begins on July 1. She previously served as the executive director of the Willa Cather Foundation, an international not-for-profit organization. She was also chief of the Consumer Protection/Antitrust Division for the Nebraska Attorney General and holds a Juris Doctorate and Bachelor of Arts from UNL.

In addition to funding the expansion, the Robert and Ardis James Foundation donated $1 million to establish a permanent endowment to provide a stipend to the executive director of Quilt House for salary, research and program support.

About his longtime support, Robert James said Quilt House is dedicated to the people of Nebraska, to quilt lovers and to those around the world who have helped recognize quilts as true art.

“It is helping the world comprehend a previously underappreciated form of art,” James said. “That’s what it’s done, and that’s what Ardis and I always had in mind.”

The expansion to the west side of the museum is designed by world renowned Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York with local architects Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture of Omaha, the same architect team that designed the museum.

Sampson Construction of Lincoln was awarded the contract for the expansion, which officially began on June 5. Construction is expected to run for about 8 months. The IQSCM will remain open for exhibitions, programs and special events throughout construction.

In addition to Kostelnik, special guests at the June 20 ground-breaking ceremony will include Brian Hastings, NU Foundation president and chief executive officer; Michael James, Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design chairman; Robert and Ralph James from the James Foundation; and Alice Kinsler, IQSCM interim executive director.

The International Quilt Study Center & Museum opened its doors in 2008 with three exhibition galleries and state-of-the-art textiles storage as an international focal point for the study, conservation and exhibition of quilts.

The $12 million facility was privately funded with more than 260 contributions to the University of Nebraska Foundation, including a leadership gift from the Robert and Ardis James Foundation. More than 130 quilt guilds, as well as quilt organizations in six other countries, provided gifts toward the building campaign.

The International Quilt Study Center within Quilt House was founded in 1997 when Nebraska natives Ardis and Robert James began donating their extensive quilt collection and have since donated more than 1,000 quilts.

Ardis M. Butler James grew up in Lincoln and Omaha, Neb., and married Robert G. James of Ord, Neb., in 1949. They raised three children, Robert Jr., Catherine and Ralph, and made their home in Chappaqua, N.Y. Ardis James died on July 7, 2011.

The International Quilt Study Center & Museum, located at 1523 North 33rd Street in Lincoln, is the home of the world’s largest publicly held quilt collection. The privately-funded, environmentally sustainable museum houses more than 4,000 quilts and objects, state-of-the-art research and storage space and spacious galleries. The center’s mission is to inspire an understanding of the cultural and artistic significance of quilts by collecting, preserving, studying, exhibiting and promoting discovery of quilts and quiltmaking traditions from many cultures, countries and times.

The International Quilt Study Center is an academic program of the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design in the College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For information on this and other programs, go to unl.edu.

The University of Nebraska Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization raising private gifts to support the University of Nebraska for more than 77 years. In 2013, donors provided the university with $236.7 million for scholarships, medical and other research, academic programs, faculty support and facilities. The foundation’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, the Campaign for Nebraska, has raised more than $1.5 billion for the university and concludes Dec. 31. For more information, visit campaignfornebraska.org.

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