Ever since her first trip to Arizona in 1992, Angelika Haeber knew she wanted to move to the Grand Canyon State.
“I was just blown away with (Arizona),” said Haeber, 65, a retired German teacher who is originally from Germany and now lives in Green Valley. To remember her experience, Haeber ultimately made a quilt that reflects her images of Arizona.
And now that quilt, “Arizona Dreaming,” and quilts made by people around the state, will be featured in an exhibit called “100 Years, 100 Quilts” to celebrate Arizona’s centennial next year.
Organizers believe the “100 Years, 100 Quilts” exhibit will be the largest centennial commemoration using quilts in the country. The Arizona Centennial Quilt Project and the Arizona Historical Society are working together to organize the exhibit, which is funded through grants and donations.
The idea for the exhibit came out of a conversation about Arizona’s centennial among members of the Arizona Quilt Study Group, a group that explores the history of quilting.
The 100 quilts will be on display at the Arizona Historical Society’s Arizona History Museum at 949 E. Second St. in Tucson from February to December 2012. After that, organizers hope to divide the quilts into groups and display them at smaller museums throughout the state.
It took several years after the 1992 trip before Haeber and her husband, Al, moved to Arizona. They retired in Mount Laurel, N.J., in 1999 and then spent about a year traveling the country in their RV looking for a good place to retire. Al was drawn to Florida, so in 2003 the couple moved there.
But Haeber still liked Arizona the best. While living in Florida in 2004, she made “Arizona Dreaming” to remind her of the state.
A year after she made the quilt, the couple moved to Sahuarita and lived there for about a year and a half before settling in Green Valley.
Stitched into the fabric of the exhibit’s 100 quilts are memories, emotions and images of the Grand Canyon state that are special to their makers.
Haeber’s quilt is ornate and features mountains as its theme. The 93- by 87-inch quilt contains squares of fabric sewn together in bands of different colors to form peaks and valleys.
“I chose (the colors) really on an emotional level, so they had to resonate with what I was envisioning,” she said.
Lenna DeMarco, a retired dance professor who lives in Sun City and is a co-chair of the centennial celebration quilt exhibit, said that quilt shows are often juried, which can discourage people from entering. But for this exhibit, the first 100 entries that met the criteria were accepted.
“The goal is that we wanted to give Arizona quilters, no matter what age or level, an opportunity to show how they felt about Arizona and its history through quilting,” DeMarco said.
To be eligible for the exhibit, the quilts had to feature an original design relating to Arizona. A “legacy statement” describing the story behind the quilt accompanied each entry.
In her legacy statement, Haeber described what each color of “Arizona Dreaming” represents: “the light blue of the clear sky alternating with the heavy dark blue of summer storms, the purple and orange clouds at sunset, the turquoise of beautiful jewelry of the native people and the beige and red-browns of the desert sand and rocks.”
DeMarco, a quilt historian, said quilts have traditionally been viewed as utilitarian items, but they also serve as a form of expression.
“Quilts basically tell the history of the country,” she said. “You can look at a quilt and it can tell you what the world was like at that woman’s time.”
Laraine Jones, museum collections manager for the Arizona History Museum, said the exhibit includes quilts with impressionistic designs, some depicting historical people and places, others made by professional quiltmakers and some made by children.
“We have a full range of technique and skill and we have a marvelous collection of things that celebrate what people love about Arizona,” she said. “People are going to be surprised with how quilting has evolved. This is not your grandma’s quilt show.”
A virtual exhibit will also be put together for people to view on the Arizona Historical Society’s website. It will include photos of the quilts and the quilters, along with in-depth video interviews with a few of the quilters.
In addition to the 100 quilts in the exhibit, the Arizona Centennial Commemorative Quilt will be on display at the Arizona History Museum during the exhibit when it’s not traveling. The commemorative quilt features landmarks, flora and fauna of Arizona. The 82- by 82-inch, two-sided quilt was unveiled Sept. 24 at the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott.
Wanda Seale of Phoenix, a co-chair of the Arizona Centennial Quilt Project, came up with the idea for the quilt. Barb Janson of Scottsdale, Pat and Therese Bliss of Glendale and Betty Hahn of Sun City helped design and illustrate the images of the quilt.
About 75 people worked on the commemorative quilt, which took about two years to finish. Different parts of the quilt were mailed to volunteers across the state to complete, and then all of the parts were pieced together.
Gina Perkes of Payson quilted the front and Susan Vassallo of Gilbert quilted the back.
Seale said the quilt turned out better than she ever imagined.
“I thought that I was just starting out to make a quilt, and now it has become a masterpiece,” she said. “It’s just an exquisite piece of art.
“I think we need to honor the women who have come before us, who have carried through this tradition of quilting, and we need to carry it through to the next generation.”
Haeber first began quilting eight years ago. Her said her interest in quilting was sparked in New Jersey when she saw handmade quilts made by the Amish.
“I enjoy making quilts and using fabrics as my palette,” she said. “Whenever I feel like being serene, I go and design quilts. It’s good for my mood, it’s good for my spirit, it lets me be creative.”
Currently, Haeber is working on a project with the Pacific Rim Bee, a subgroup of the Tucson Quilters Guild. The group is making 40 quilts for children in the Head Start program at San Xavier. She is also working on a quilt with two other women in Green Valley for Quilts For a Cause, a non-profit organization that arranges quilt auctions to raise money for gynecological and breast cancer research.
Haeber said she’s proud to have her quilt representing Arizona’s centennial.
“I’m tickled pink that I was able to do that, that other people will be sharing those feelings by looking at my quilt,” she said.