In 1981, a group of quilt, folk art, and history enthusiasts as well as scholars and philanthropists formed the Kentucky Quilt Project (KQP). Their goal was to document Kentucky's rich quiltmaking history before the quilts disappeared, leaving the state to be sold in big cities like New York or to become quilted clothing or home decor. Searching for quilt experts to help guide them, the KQP organizers contacted Jonathan Holstein and Gail van der Hoof, who enthusiastically agreed to be part of the project. A fruitful relationship was formed, with Holstein eventually co-authoring the project's book, Kentucky Quilts, 1800-1900.

Years later, when KQP founder Shelly Zegart visited the New York warehouse in which Holstein and van der Hoof were storing the Abstract Design in American Quilts pieces, the trio hit upon the idea of re-staging the Whitney exhibition for its 20th anniversary. Teamed with other KQP directors, including Eleanor Bingham Miller, Zegart and Holstein developed plans to not only reinstall Abstract Design in American Quilts, but to present a group of exhibitions and conferences exploring other important regional and national topics, such as African American quiltmaking, Amish quilts, and new directions in quilt documentation and scholarship. This 1991-1992 series, titled Louisville Celebrates the American Quilt, raised the bar for scholarly quilt events and sparked later projects such as the Quilt Index and The Quilt Journal. The KQP's celebration of Abstract Design in American Quilts' 20-year anniversary helped ensure the exhibition's legacy as a pivotal historical moment in its own right, but also as a catalyst for other efforts to move quilt studies forward.