Several years ago, the West Alabama Quilters Guild was approached by a group from Paducah, Ky. that asked to sponsor one of Hallie O’Kelley’s quilts in the Paducah Mural Project. The WAQG board explored the opportunity and last year voted not to participate in the Paducah’s project, but honor the artist locally instead. The WAQG raised over $5,000 in support of the installation of a depiction of one of O’Kelley’s quilts in downtown Tuscaloosa as part of the Public Art Project.
Hallie O’Kelley is one of the top American and International quilters who has called Tuscaloosa home for 67 years. She is a West Alabama icon who has contributed much to the West Alabama community. After earning her Master’s Degree in Applied Art with an emphasis in textile design at Iowa State University, she and her husband moved to Tuscaloosa in 1951. She began making quilts in 1980 in non-traditional ways that were hand quilted original designs using screen-printing and hand dyed fabrics. O’Kelley continues to utilize these techniques in her projects. She is a member of the Arts Council of Tuscaloosa, The American Quilters Society, the International Quilters Society and the West Alabama Quilters Guild.
From 1983-2003 she was the designer and screen printer for the Kentuck Festival posters, and in 1994 she was commissioned by Kentuck to make a quilt using the same design as the poster for that year. She has continued to make a “Kentuck” quilt each year since then. The design and colors in this quilt are used in the publicity for this annual arts festival.
O’Kelley exhibits her quilts each year in international juried quilt shows where they have received numerous awards. Two of her quilts were in the permanent collection of the Museum of the American Society in Paducah. One of these, which was on loan for ten years to the museum, has been returned to her. The other quilt was sold to the museum and remains in the permanent collection.
The artist has received numerous awards and recognition. Her book, “Screen Printing for Quilters,” was published in 1995 by the Black Belt Press in Montgomery. She received the Druid Arts Award “Visual Artist of the Year” from the Arts Council of Tuscaloosa in 2005, and she made a snowman ornament that was selected to be hung on the White House Christmas tree during Bill Clinton’s term of office.
While many artists are reluctant to share their talents with others, Hallie O’Kelley is eager to teach and talk to others about her process.
The “October Glory” quilt installation is located in the northwest corner of Government Plaza on 6th St. in downtown Tuscaloosa.