The People's Defender
Quilt trail leads many to 10th anniversary celebration
Trails nationwide gather in Adams County
WINCHESTER - Representatives from 15 states and of 22 quilt square trails across the nation converged on Adams County, where the quilt trail began, during the Quilt Trail Gathering on Friday and Saturday at the Red Barn Convention Center.
"Keep going - I'd like to see a quilt trail in all 50 states and every province in Canada," said Amir Eylon, State Tourism Director.
"With what happened in 2001 (911), the quilt barn trail was like a Phoenix rising up from the ashes - look how its grown," said Jack Wright, emcee for the event.
Julie Henahan, executive director of the Ohio Arts Council, talked about the impact of the Quilt Barns to culture, commerce and economic development. She commended Donna Sue Groves, of Monroe Township, who was the first to envision a quilt trail after coming up with the idea to put a square on her own barn for her mother, Maxine Groves, an avid quilter.
"Quilt Barn Trails have attracted tourists, and local businesses use the trails for innovation," said Henahan. "Donna Sue has shown what persistent vision and abiding love can achieve."
During the program, Tom O'Grady, of Athens, took participants back in time to the 1800s when many of the barns gracing the quilt squares were built.
"What remains of the primeval forests that once covered Ohio is preserved in the barns," O'Grady said, referring to the timbers used in construction of the barns.
He described the differing barn designs across Ohio according to the national origins of the builder. For instance, German barns were built in a bank with an overhang over the lower floor, or there would be a ramp to the second floor.
"No two barns are the same," he said. "They were built according to the lay of the land and the materials used."
Another key speaker for the Gathering was Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, founder of the Women of Color Quilters Network, an international organization. Her quilts have been included in five exhibitions at the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery, and her artwork can be found in museums and corporate collections, such as the Wadsworth Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, American Museum of Design, Bell Telephone, the Cleveland Clinic and Exxon.
She talked about her first experiences - and mistakes with quilting. She and an assistant showed some of her quilts, mostly with painted designs.
"Quilts capture a little piece of Americana," she said.
A panel of three quilt trail organizers discussed their trails and discussed how to make trails work for a community.
"The quilt barn trail was the best community-building project we've ever done," said Judy Sizemore, from Kentucky. "Quilting has deep roots in Kentucky... In each community, you find different resources. They match the trail to the purpose."
Diane Murphy, of Clinton County, explained that her county was known for the company DHL leaving in 2008, and the resulting economic stress.
"I thought, we will be celebrating a bicentennial in two years," she said. "With our trail, we wanted to give people something else to think about and to talk about."
"Everybody's done it a different way, but the same success can be achieved and shared," said Barbara Webster, of North Carolina, where, she said, there are still Civil War feuds.
"The quilt trail helped to soften some of these hard feelings," she said.
Suzanne Labry, of Texas, said in her state they have to find creative ways to distribute the quilt squares due to a lack of barns.
In "three-minutes-of-fame," a spokesperson from each of the 22 trails represented from Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and West Virginia showed photos of their trail and described its individual qualities.
Glenn and Barbara Gross, of Venango County, Pa., and Nettie and Irven Kauffman, of Berks County, Pa. said the Gathering expanded their horizon on what barn quilts can do. They especially liked the three minute section which gave a lot of information about organizing quilt trails and who in the community to go to for help. In Pennsylvania, they are involved with the Pennsylvania Farm Show, which fills a week in January and features a quilt show.
"I've had a wonderful time," Dessie Workman, amateur quilter of Stewart (near Athens), said after the event. "It's been more than I expected. I learned so much."
"I thought it went extremely well," said Sonja Cropper, of Brown County Department of Travel & Tourism. There were people from all over the country exchanging ideas and sharing what they have done with quilt trails in their own communities."
Cropper said she will be busily preparing for another date in quilt trail history that holds local significance, reported Michael Arthur, of the News Democrat in Georgetown. After the phenomenon started in Adams County in the fall of 2001, Brown County was next in line, establishing the second quilt barn trail in the nation in 2002. Next year, Cropper hopes a commemoration event can be organized to recognize Brown County's 10th anniversary in the quilt trail movement.
A discussion was held at the end of the Gathering on the future of the quilt trails, opening lines of communication between trails and the public, and perhaps establishing a national quilt trail organization.
For continuing information on quilt trails, please stay tuned to the Web site at www.quilttrailgathering.com or check the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/quilttrailgathering. Donna Sue Groves may be contacted by email at email@example.com.