01 April 2016

Report from Philadelphia, #1

Written by Chris Nielsen

I will likely write a more detailed report on the sessions at the annual SAQA conference which is now going on in Philadelphia but I thought it might be fun to give you a sense of what it is like to attend this or similar events. As soon as I walked out of the airport I knew that I wanted to organize the information as 'Reasons to Attend a SAQA conference'. I think the first reason will give it away.

1. It is always better spring weather in the conference city than in Atlantic Canada. The conference is usually held on the last weekend of March. We all know what the weather is like at home. Here in Philadelphia the daffodils are up and their blooms are fading, the trees are leafing out, many of them are flowering and the temperature has been around 20 degrees.

The next two conferences are scheduled for Lincoln, Nebraska and then San Antonio, Texas. I am hearing amazing things about Lincoln and the International Quilt Museum and San Antonio is one of my favourite cities.

2. The organizers always seek out opportunities for attendees to visit local museums and galleries. They hit the jackpot in Philadelphia. There are too many venues to count but the most amazing is the Barnes Foundation. Check out the link and read about Albert Barnes and the astonishing art collection he created and preserved. It includes, among other things, 181 Renoirs and 67 Cezannes as well as lots of work by Matisse, Picasso and Miro. What is fascinating is that the works are hung many to a wall and there is a specific order and reason for their placement, all established by Barnes before he died. We all had an opportunity to go there for a few hours. I have to return for a day or two more to really soak it all in.

3. This is your tribe. The conference opened last night with a mixer which was meant to be an icebreaker. The organizers had developed an elaborate scheme which involved coloured tags which were to be matched to colours on the tables. We were then asked to answer, as a group, an art quilt construction question which was also placed on the table. Everyone ignored the game, even when volunteers came around to prompt responses. Why? People were too busy talking to one another even though most of them had just met. It is rare to see such a cohesive group. Looking around the room I didn't see anyone who was alone or even isolated within a group.

4. You will meet other Canadians. This morning I am going to breakfast with Mary Pal, Tracey Lawko, Heather Dubreuil and Maggie Vanderweit. The Canadians make a point of getting together every year. It's nice to have that connection.


  1. Thanks for the report Chris. I look forward to hearing more about the SAQA conference. Have a wonderful time!

  2. I'll be following too...missing y'all!