Barn Quilts Blanket America

| 3/14/2019 11:11:00 AM

Country MoonDriving through the countryside in rural Indiana the other day, a brightly painted barn quilt caught my eye, a trend that is literally blanketing America. This simple piece of art adds a little bit of Americana to a homestead without distracting from the natural beauty of the barn itself.

These barn quilts aren’t really quilts at all, but rather quilted patterns painted on squares of plywood which are then framed and hung on barns or other out buildings. Some can be found randomly throughout the countryside and others are part of “quilt trails” which are organized by communities or counties and provide visitors an opportunity to view several in a certain area.

The concept of barn quilts began with Donna Sue Groves who wished to honor her mother Maxine and her Appalachian heritage by having a painted quilt hung on her barn in Adams County, Ohio. However, her work with the Ohio Arts Council and other community organizations inspired her to alter her plan.

Rather than have a personal tribute, she suggested a “sampler” of 20 quilt squares could be created along a driving trail that would invite visitors to the countryside. A committee of volunteers worked together to both plan the trail and to form guidelines for how the project would be managed. Several barn owners signed up.

So, ironically, the first quilt on the American Quilt Trail does not hang at the Groves’ farm. The “Ohio Star” quilt pattern was painted by local artists and installed on a building on a greenhouse near the Groves’ farm in 2001. This site was chosen because it allowed for a public celebration of the inauguration of the trail. A “Snail’s Trail” quilt square was later painted and mounted on the barn where Donna Sue and Maxine reside.

This new art form quickly caught on, and Donna Sue helped to promote it. A group of quilters from nearby Brown County started their own project. For years, she worked with organizations in Ohio and Tennessee to create new quilt trails. She also advised dozens of individuals who either created painted quilts of their own or who were organizing quilt trails in their communities.

donna sue groves
3/15/2019 4:20:41 AM

Thank you for your wonderful article! I am honored and humbled that the model has grown and flourished! Hugs to all the 100's and 100's of volunteers and fabulous artists. ~donna sue

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