Apron Strings: Ties to the Past

Although taken for granted by many social and art historians, the apron is the subject of a fascinating reevaluation in this popular ExhibitsUSA exhibition. Featuring 51 vintage and contemporary examples, Apron Strings: Ties to the Past reviews the apron’s role as an emotionally charged vehicle for expression with a rich and varied craft history that is still relevant today.

Featuring aprons dating from the 1900s through present, the exhibition chronicles changing attitudes toward women and domestic work. It also surveys the wide range of design and craft techniques apron-makers have used to express themselves, while still working within creative venues traditionally available to
women. Elaborately embroidered aprons of delicate cotton, for example, were worn by well-heeled women of the 1920s. In contrast, the Depression and war years of the 1930s and 1940s inspired sturdy, calico bib aprons. The post-war 1940s and 1950s—the June Cleaver era—stand out as the acknowledged heyday of the apron, when commercial and intricately hand-decorated aprons flourished as symbols of family and motherhood.

Today, artists continue using aprons to explore cultural myths and realities, as well as their individual experiences with American domesticity. Though not as widespread as they once were, aprons remain as functional and protective garments for men and women alike.

Apron Strings is organized into several thematic groups that address design, historical context, use, and cultural message. Accompanying text panels and labels provide general background for each theme. The exhibition serves as an excellent tool to bring together diverse parts of the community through shared experiences with and memories of a common, everyday textile. In addition to numerous educational programming opportunities, the exhibition also includes anon-site “try-on” collection for interaction and learning.

Apron Strings: Ties to the Past was curated by Joyce Cheney, an independent curator based in St. Louis, Missouri. It was adapted for travel by ExhibitsUSA, a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance.

From an evaluation from the Atkins-Johnson Farm & Museum (Gladstone, MO) about Apron Strings: Ties to the Past:
“The exhibition was well designed, easy to install and came with a lot of excellent resources. Excellent education material came with the exhibit and it was easy to create programs around the exhibit.”

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Tour Schedule

Apron Strings: Ties to the Past is touring April 2014 through January 2022. The dates below reflect seven-week exhibition periods. Dates are subject to change; please contact MoreArt@maaa.org or (800) 473-3872 x208/209 for current availability.

  • April 6–May 25, 2014 Carl & Mary Koehler History Center
    Cedar Rapids, IA
  • June 16–August 11, 2014 Kansas City Public Library
    Kansas City, MO
  • September 1–October 20, 2014 Temecula Valley Museum
    Temecula, CA
  • November 10, 2014–January 7, 2015 XIT Museum
    Dalhart, TX
  • January 28–March 16, 2015 Fort Smith Regional Art Museum
    Fort Smith, AR
  • April 6–August 11, 2015 The Foundry Art Centre
    St. Charles, MO
  • September 1–October 20, 2015 Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center
    Enid, OK
  • November 10, 2015–January 7, 2016 West Florida Historic Preservation, Inc.
    Pensacola, FL
  • January 28–March 16, 2016 Collier County Museums
    Naples, FL
  • April 6–May 25, 2016 Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum
    Arkansas City, KS
  • June 16–August 11, 2016 Living History Farms
    Urbandale, IA
  • September 1–October 20, 2016 Temple Railroad Museum
    Temple, TX
  • November 10, 2016–March 16, 2017 Palmer Museum of Art & History
    Palmer, AK
  • April 6–May 25, 2017 Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
    Duncan, OK
  • June 16–August 11, 2017 National Agricultural Center & Hall of Fame
    Bonner Springs, KS
  • September 1–October 20, 2017 Atkins Johnson Farm and Museum
    Gladstone, MO
  • November 10, 2017–January 8, 2018 East Texas Oil Museum
    Kilgore, TX
  • January 28–March 16, 2018 Morton County Historical Society
    Elkhart, KS
  • April 6–August 11, 2018 Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts
    Melbourne, FL
  • September 14–October 21, 2018 Dane G. Hansen Memorial Museum
    Logan, KS
  • November 10, 2018–January 7, 2019 Refurbishment
    Kansas City, MO
  • January 28–March 16, 2019 Georgia Museum of Agriculture & Historic Villiage
    Tifton, GA
  • April 6–May 25, 2019 Museum of the Western Prairie
    Altus, OK
  • June 16–August 11, 2019 Delta Cultural Center
    Helena, AR
  • September 1–October 20, 2019 Chelsea District Library
    Chelsea, MI
  • November 10, 2019–January 7, 2020 Chandler Museum
    Chandler, AZ
  • January 28–March 16, 2020 Customs House Museum & Cultural Center
    Clarksville, TN
  • April 6–May 25, 2020 Waynesboro Library
    Waynesboro, MS
  • June 16–August 11, 2020 Edmond Historical Society
    Edmond, OK
  • September 1–January 7, 2021 Irving Arts Center
    Irving, TX
  • April 6–May 25, 2021 Sand Springs Cultural & Historical Museum
    Sand Springs, OK
  • June 16–August 11, 2021 Lake Jackson Historical Museum
    Lake Jackson, TX
  • September 1–October 20, 2021 McFadden Ward Home
    Beaumont, TX
  • November 10, 2021–January 7, 2022 Old Heritage Courthouse Museum
    Iverness, FL

Exhibition Details

51 contemporary and vintage aprons, 2 dress, and 5 apron try-ons

  • Content

    Fee Includes
    Press Kit
    Registrar’s Packet
    Programming Guide
    Text Panels
    Narrative Labels
    Full Insurance
    Installation Instructions
    Custom-Designed and Built Crates

  • Curated By

    Joyce Cheney, Independent Curator, St. Louis, MO

  • Organized By

    ExhibitsUSA, Mid-America Arts Alliance, Kansas City, MO

  • Out-of-Region Rental Fee


  • In-Region Rental Fee


  • Duration

    7-week display

  • Shipping

    Common Carrier

  • Running Feet


  • Square Feet


  • Security


  • Number of Crates/Total Weight

    3 tubs, 1 crate/136 pounds

  • Insurance

    The exhibition is fully insured by ExhibitsUSA at no additional expense to you, both while installed and during transit.