There will be no shortage of artistic endeavors to explore during the Boneyard Arts Festival this weekend. While quilts might not immediately come to mind when we think of artwork, the 100+ pieces that will be on display for the 13th annual Festival of Quilts at Cunningham Children's Home will certainly prove they deserve to be a recognized gallery of Boneyard for the 2nd year in a row. I will readily admit I know nothing about the art of quilting, but I was awestruck by the intricate and creative designs that will be on display Friday and Saturday. 

Whether gazing from afar or looking closely at the complex details and patterns, these quilts are a sight to behold.

Yes, those are actual neckties.

Quilts hold a special significance here. For 100 years, each child that has passed through the doors of Cunningham has received a quilt lovingly created by the United Methodist Women. It's a reminder that even though their life circumstances may be difficult, they are loved and cared for.

This is the primary fundraiser for Cunningham Children's Home, which provides educational and support services as well as therapeutic intervention for 351 children, youth, and their families. "Cunningham's vision is to see every child thrive." said Sharla Jolly, Director of Advancement for Cunningham Children's Home. "Through the Festival of Quilts, we raise money for programs and services that will improve the life of a child which will positively impact members of their family and will eventually enrich our community. That's why we love the way the community comes around Cunningham at Festival time to support us and share their compassion. They are paying it forward." Last year, they raised $66,000 from festival sponsorships and money raised during the weekend. This year they are hoping to raise $70,000. That money will help bridge the gap between reimbursements from referring agencies and the actual costs of caring for the kids. There is a gap of $36 per day per youth, which means a little more than 2.5 million in charitable support is needed each year to cover the funding shortfall.

Some of those funds will come from the silent auction, where festival goers will have the opportunity to bid on quilts. Expect starting bids of at least $200. There are also several "show" quilts on display that are not for sale, and you'll have to attend to see them. Some of the more unique pieces include a quilt made with 1600 different fabrics, a quilt made by the owner's great grandmother during the Civil War, one that would be a Cub fans dream, and a quilt that has received 5 Best in Show awards. Each of these remarkable pieces has it's own story, and I was particularly drawn to this one:

Beyond viewing and bidding on quilts, visitors to the festival can also enjoy lunch or coffee in the Patchwork Cafe, shop the bake sale and boutique with cash and carry quilts, and browse the gift shop filled an eclectic collection of handmade items, including some made by the the youth at Cunningham.

How great is this greeting card?

There will also be walking tours of the Cunningham grounds on the hour, and two guest speakers in the Administration Lounge:

Deborah Fell: Friday and Saturday from 2-3 p.m.

Sherry Fourez Sollers: Saturday from 11 a.m.-12 p.m.

Pat Howard, from Illiopolis, was among several United Methodist Women busily setting up the gift shop during my visit. This is her 4th year participating, and she returns to volunteer each year because "the warm, fuzzy feeling you get from working with the people at Cunningham is just amazing. It's one big happy family." I highly recommend spending an hour or two admiring the beautiful handiwork, learning more about the essential services that Cunningham provides for youth in our community, and maybe catching a bit of that "warm, fuzzy feeling."

The festival runs from 9am-5pm April 7th and 8th at the Spiritual Life Center building on the Cunningham grounds, 1301 N. Cunningham Avenue in Urbana. Admission is a suggested donation of $5.

Cunningham Children's Home has been serving children in need since 1894, when Joseph and Mary Cunningham of Urbana bequeathed their home and 15 acres of land to the women of the Methodist Episcopal (now United Methodist) Church. Visit their website to learn more about the programs they offer and how you can continue to be involved with the work they are doing.