Our Mission

The mission of the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles is to promote and celebrate the art, creators, craft, and history of quilts and textiles.

The Museum is the nexus for fiber artists, art lovers, collectors, quilters, and crafters who share a passion for fiber art and a deep commitment to its preservation and evolution.

The Museum is known for its:

  • Warm welcoming atmosphere where powerful compelling exhibitions explore the stories and artistry of traditional and new fiber art and artists;
  • Intriguing collaborations with traditional and innovative partners;
  • Fun creative participatory activities that bring out the artist in all of us; and
  • First-class visitor experiences that bring people to the museum time and time again.

Our founders established the Museum nearly 40 years ago through vision and heroic volunteer efforts. Today, new generations of volunteers, artists, quilters, crafters and patrons partner with staff and board to imagine and ensure the Museum’s present and future.

Core Values

  • We believe fiber art can be created, appreciated and enjoyed by all people.
  • We celebrate quilts and textiles as forms of artistic and cultural expression that are at the core of human experience, especially that of women and people of color.
  • We marvel at the resourcefulness and inventiveness as seen in the use of diverse fiber materials and the wealth of techniques used to add beauty and give meaning to our lives.
  • We embrace both the fiber art that interprets established community traditions, aesthetics, and values, as well as work that seeks to express a uniquely personal aesthetic and experience.

Background & History

The first museum in the United States to focus exclusively on quilts and textiles as an art form, the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2012. With compelling exhibitions of historical and contemporary textiles, engaging gallery walks and artist talks for adults, and a highly successful educational outreach program, we aim to increase the public’s awareness, understanding, and appreciation of quilts and textiles as a form of artistic and cultural expression that people worldwide have practiced for thousands of years.

Cloth is at the core of human experience. Every culture throughout history has had a textile tradition through which people learned about and sustained their social, civic and religious rituals. As largely a woman’s tradition, quilting became a primary vehicle for women’s social, political and artistic expression when other forms of expression were not available to them. It was during the 1970s, when the women's movement and the feminist art movement came to full flower, that a new breed of artists, often formally educated, began choosing fiber as a fine art medium, challenging assumptions about both the intent and the content of textile art forms.

In 1977, the Santa Clara Valley Quilt Association first opened the American Museum of Quilts and Related Arts in a storefront in Los Altos. The Museum has since operated in a shopping center in Saratoga, an old San Jose Spanish Colonial home, and several leased storefronts downtown while searching for a permanent home. The Museum was incorporated in 1986 as a nonprofit public benefit museum, administered under the direction of a community-based Board of Trustees.

In late 2003 the Museum partnered with East Bay venture philanthropists headed by Steven H. Oliver, president of the board of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and formed the 520 South First Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) to purchase and renovate a historic property. This 13,000 square-foot facility originally built in 1923 opened in September, 2005 as the Museum’s permanent home. The LLC received a $1.3 million interest- free, forgivable loan from the San Jose Redevelopment Agency and additional grants to rehabilitate the property as an anchor institution in the burgeoning arts and entertainment district known as SoFA, the southern gateway to downtown San Jose. In 2010 the Museum dissolved the LLC and converted the members of the group into investors securing the deed on the property and establishing itself as the sole owner of the property at 520 South First Street.

The Museum’s collection consists of some 850 quilts, garments and ethnic textiles, and a research library of more than 500 books on the history and making of quilts and textiles. For the first decade, the collection was built primarily with gifts of late 19th and early 20th century quilts from members of the founding organization. In 1999 the Museum acquired the Porcella Collection of ethnic textiles and garments, which increased its holdings by about one-third. At a time when 61% of our community members are either foreign born or the children of people born elsewhere, representing 176 of the 194 nations of the world, the Museum’s collection is a valuable resource for helping people share the fabrics of their lives.

The Museum attracts approximately 18,000 visitors annually and reaches 5,000 K-12 students and their families each school year through its highly successful in-school programs. With the move to its newly renovated facility at 520 South First in July 2005, the Museum joins a cadre of other successful arts organizations in anchoring SoFA--San Jose’s arts and entertainment district. Poised to provide meaningful art experiences for a broad cross-section of the community, the Museum presently offers:

  • Ambitious exhibitions in its multiple galleries;
  • Exhibit-related programs for adults;
  • South First Fridays, when the Museum is open and free to the public from 7pm until 9pm the first Friday of the month.

This organization is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization for both federal and state tax purposes.