Not your conventional convention


    A highly anticipated convention comes to downtown this week. It has all the makings to be the largest ever held in the city and it could result in a big economic boost for the sector, especially with Restaurant Week going on.

    It’s expected that the American Quilter’s Society will bring 15,000 delegates from 40 states and six countries here starting Wednesday. But Experience Grand Rapids has labeled the event as much of an art show as it is a convention. The four-day meeting will have more than 1,000 quilts on display and will feature a competitive quilt show with 350 quilts competing for cash prizes that total more than $44,000.

    “For the past year, Grand Rapids has been gearing up for the arrival of the American Quilter’s Society. We’re delighted they selected our city for their show and look forward to providing them with an outstanding experience,” said Experience GR President Doug Small in a statement.

    “Our community has come together like never before in anticipation of their visit, and has certainly pulled out all the stops.”

    Those stops include three museums and a theater. The Grand Rapids Art Museum is holding a sneak preview of noted quilter Susana Allen Hunter’s work by displaying a few of her quilts now through Oct. 22. GRAM will host a full retrospective of her work next year and is offering AQS members discounted admission prices on Friday.

    The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is hosting two special exhibits from Studio Art Quilt Associates, a nonprofit organization based in Storrs, Conn., through Sept. 16. The museum will stay open until 8 p.m. Wednesday and also will offer discounted admission to AQS members.

    The Grand Rapids Public Museum is holding its “white glove” show Thursday from 5- 8 p.m. The show features 13 quilts from its collection, some of which date to the 19th century. The museum also is giving discounts to delegates. Master Arts Theater, 75 77th St. SW, will premiere the play “Quilters” on Wednesday. The show will run through Sept. 22, except on Labor Day weekend.

    “Quilters, like other artists, draw inspiration from many sources to create award-winning works of art,” said Betsy Carlson, president of West Michigan Quilters’ Guild, which has 500 members and a big event coming in October: Quilts on the Grand runs Oct. 5-7 at The DeltaPlex.

    “Traditionally considered for comfort only, quilts now hang in museums as artwork for their representations of aesthetic design, cultural groups and historical periods,” Carlson said.

    AQS was founded by Meredith Schroeder in 1984 and has 50,000 members. The show this week will include 87 quilts from Michigan artists and two special exhibitions that two Michigan quilters, Ami Simms and Gwen Marston, will curate. International exhibitions are also part of the show.

    Small sees the convention as yet another art and cultural arrow in the city’s growing quiver. “The success of ArtPrize and eclectic mix of world-class performance and groundbreaking exhibits at our cultural institutions have put us on the international stage. We’re thrilled to add yet another artistic medium to our city’s art scene,” he said.

    This week’s AQS convention is the first of three that will take place in DeVos Place. The meeting is expected to add $15 million to the local economy and account for 3,500 room nights at area hotels each summer for the next three.

    Show hours are from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are available at the door. A daily ticket costs $9 for AQS members and $11 for non-members. Multi-day tickets also are available. Those who attend can register to win a 2012 Ford Focus that AQS is giving away.

    Restaurant Week runs through Saturday. The annual promotion includes 63 restaurants this year, with 37 in the downtown area. The businesses are offering three-course meals for $25 and some are offering two meals for $25.

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