There's a lot to like at Lowell's art venues in August, with gorgeous quilts taking center stage at various museums and galleries and being celebrated, as well, at Downtown Lowell First Thursday events today, 5-9 p.m. Visit http://www.facebook.com/downtownlowellfirstthursdays.

The Brush Art Gallery and Studio's quilt show this year is "Something Boro'd Something Blue," and it has a distinctive Japanese twist to it. The show features gorgeous quilts influenced by the Japanese Boro traditions and techniques of layered and stitched patchwork quilting.

It runs Aug. 4-Sept. 15, but there's a sneak peek preview and demonstration today at 6 p.m., presented by guest curator Mary Walter, an international award-winning quilter, and Miho Takeuchi, a leading expert in the traditional Japanese sewing technique known as "sashiko."

There's also an artist reception Aug. 11, 2-4 p.m.; best in show and other awards will be announced at 3:30.

Japanese Boro began as a functional technique of layering and stitching together traditional indigo blue and other fabrics to patch clothing, futons and other household textiles to extend their usefulness. But it evolved into a beautiful statement of how simple hand-stitching transcended the humble purpose.


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The juried exhibition features work by quilters who share what inspired them based on the Japanese Boro style of patchwork. Entries include hand and machine stitching. Traditional or contemporary designs include elements of stitching and indigo-dyed fabrics alone or in combination with other fabrics, all embodying the essence of the tradition.

Local or regional artists include Agusta Agustsson and Nita Penfold, Melrose; Kiranada Sterling Benjamin, Kingston, N.H.; Tricia Deck, Lincoln; Betsy Dewolf, Holliston; Carol Anne Grotrian and Polly Harold, Cambridge; Gail Joseph, Leominster; Mary-Ellen Latino, Northboro; Marge Tucker, Norwell; and Laure Warren, Mattapoisett.

Visit www.thebrush.org for info.

The Ayer Lofts Gallery opens its quilt show, "Navigating Utopia -- Quilt Works by Ellen Zellner," today, with a reception 6-9 p.m., and running through Aug. 26. Zellner hails from Brookline and has been a fiber artist since the 1980s. She began weaving large, painted, sculptural vessels, and went on to design and sew quilts and more recently started creating fabric vessels. Visit www.ayerloftsgallery.com.

Other quilt shows, opening next week at the Whistler House Museum of Art and at Gallery Z, will be featured in the Aug. 9 Galleries column.

The New England Quilt Museum opened its "H2Oh! Vital, Powerful, Sacred Water" in July and presents an informal gallery talk today, 5-9 p.m. Visit www.nequiltmuseum.org for details.

Nancye Tuttle's email address is nancyedt@verizon.net.

Nancye Tuttle's Art Picks

It's hot

Activism is in the air at the Loading Dock Gallery at Western Avenue Studios, where "Hot Buttons 2" runs Aug. 1-26. In conjunction with Downtown Lowell First Thursdays, the opening reception is today, 6-8 p.m. The show gives 50 artists a unique platform to air their grievances and share what ticks them off, from the political climate to global warming to the price of gas. The fun, interactive show features wearable, collectible, 1-inch round buttons made from original artwork that carries a message. During the reception, bags of six randomly selected buttons will be available for purchase, and participants can beg, barter or trade with other patrons to curate their own mini-collection. Buttons will be on sale through the duration of the exhibit, with the original artwork on display in the main gallery. Visit www.theloadingdockgallery.com for details.

Free August

Worcester Art Museum announces the continuation of a popular summer tradition -- free admission for the month of August. It includes access to special exhibits, the permanent galleries and all programming, including tours, Art Carts and arms and armor demos. Visit www.worcesterart.org/events/free-august.

Summer lectures

Save the dates for these upcoming summer lectures, featured in the People of Concord Summer Series, presented by Concord Museum at the Wright Tavern in Concord Center. On Thursday, Aug. 16, hear about Mary Merrick Brooks, the abolitionist reformer who lived in Concord. On Tuesday, Aug. 21, a lecture on Ellen Garrison, an educator and social-justice advocate who was born in Concord in 1823, will be presented. Lectures start at 7 p.m. Free to members; $10, non-members. Visit www.concordmuseum.org or call 978-369-9763, ext. 216 for reservations.