News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Jean Wells Keenan honored with award

Jean Wells Keenan is renowned in Sisters as an artist, a quilter, an entrepreneur and savvy businesswoman — and the founder of the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. At heart, she is a teacher and mentor, wife, mother and grandmother. Last Wednesday night, she added the title Recipient of the Eighth Annual Ben Westlund Memorial Award.

Cate O’Hagan, co-chair of the Deschutes Cultural Coalition, presented the award, an original ink-and-watercolor drawing created by artist Pat Clark. Titled “Landscape Bits and Pieces/An Oregon Memory,” it is a study for an engraving in rich shades of blue. The Westlund Award also includes a gift of $1,000, which Wells Keenan designated toward the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, celebrating its 45th anniversary this July. It remains unique in the world of quilt shows because it’s held outdoors, and it’s not ticketed. Dawn Boyd, the Quilt Show’s executive director, accepted the check.

O’Hagan remarked, “Jean Wells Keenan founded the quilt show after starting her quilt store business, the Stitchin’ Post, the prior year. When I think about starting a retail business 45 years ago in Sisters, on top of raising a family, and on top of that, a quilt show, I wonder what that must have taken! As her sister June says, Jean believes that ‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’ And she does!

“The Stitchin’ Post, now in daughter Val’s capable hands, has thrived and grown,” O’Hagan said. “Jean’s leadership has inspired the SOQS to expand its vision from a local event to an international attraction. An author of 30 books, Jean is widely recognized in this country and around the world as an accomplished artist and master of the quilting craft.”

“When I got the (award) letter, I had to read it twice. I was totally surprised!” Wells Keenan said. “I have to thank the Deschutes Cultural Coalition for all that they do, and thanks to my whole family… When it comes to Quilt Show, everyone helps.”

She also thanked the Quilt Show’s three executive directors, its 250 to 300 tireless volunteers, the City of Sisters and the business community, “and all of the dedicated quilters whose creative journey of sharing warms my heart and makes me want to continue.”

Pat Clark applauded her friend, Jean, for having an innovative and creative mind.

“The Quilt Show has an amazing legacy, and it put Sisters on the map,” she said.

The award honors the legacy of the late Ben Westlund, a Tumalo resident and businessman who served in the state House of Representatives and Senate, and later as State Treasurer. An advocate for the arts, he sponsored legislation creating the Oregon Cultural Trust, a statewide cultural promotion and preservation organization. Westlund died of cancer in 2010, while still in office. His wife, Libby, and their two children attended the ceremony at FivePine Lodge.


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