Quilts are beautiful family heirlooms, but they spend much of their lives safely tucked away in hope chests and linen closets. But when quilt designs are painted on an 8' x 8' piece of plywood and hung on a barn, they're enjoyed by everyone who drives by.
Many of you have treasured heirloom quilts in your homes. Even if you didn't make them yourself, you can probably appreciate them as works of art. Some enthusiasts have taken their love of quilts to a larger scale, and created barn quilts.
These are large wooden squares painted with a quilt pattern and attached to the side of a barn. Many barn owners choose quilt square designs that have special meaning for their families. Others choose familiar block patterns like the Shoo-Fly, the Friendship Star, and the Brown Goose.
Barn quilt art started in Ohio, and has now spread to communities in other states with the help of arts organizations, businesses, and 4-H clubs. Gina Noe with the University of Kentucky Extension helped start a barn quilt project in Madison County, Kentucky, and it has taken off with community support.
"It's a public art form. We do a quilt square, only a block, on a piece of ply-board, eight by eight," Noe says. "They are laid out by our public artist, and then we come in and paint them. It's kind of a paint-by-number process. They are hung all over our county, and actually I think they are in as many as 19 states at this point."
Barn quilts preserve a piece of history, and also give some communities another way to attract tourists. It helps if you can put one of the squares on a barn that can be seen from a major highway or interstate, because that will draw in more visitors.
"The idea was to get people off the expressway to see some of our local attractions -- our agribusinesses, our historic places, and other tourist attractions," Noe says. "So we did map out a trail, and we do have a map that has all 27 quilt squares on it, and you can take a self-guided tour."
Some counties even host quilt tour events that feature local food and live entertainment.
Creating and installing a barn quilt is no small project. Many are completed through private and corporate donations and a lot of volunteer hours.
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