Quilt Trail Gathering
Brochures from some of the many Quilt Trails that were represented at the Quilt Trail Gathering in Adams County Ohio on May 13-14, 1011. Photo by Alex Labry.
In late springtime, Adams County Ohio is a verdant place, its rolling hills full of lush greenery, morning mists steaming over plowed fields, and black locust trees in bloom. Tidy Amish farmsteads, covered bridges over gurgling creeks, and picturesque old barns make a drive through the county’s winding roads a visual delight. Those barns, in particular, were the inspiration for a coming together of quilt lovers from all over the United States and Canada on May 13-14, 2011.
Adams County was the birthplace, ten years ago, of North America’s first Quilt Trail, and it was Adams County’s barns that sparked the idea. Former Ohio Arts Council employee Donna Sue Groves had the vision of painting quilt squares on some of the old barns, thereby creating a driving trail that would encourage tourism, support local artists, benefit the local economy, pay homage to her Appalachian heritage—and most importantly—honor her quilt artist mother, Nina Maxine Groves (see Quilt Raising).
The idea spread—not only to many other counties in Ohio, but also to 29 other states and two Canadian provinces to date—and morphed to include other structures besides barns. A decade later, it was appropriate that the first celebration of what is now known as The American Quilt Trail Movement be held in Adams County.
The Quilt Trail Gathering assembled a diverse group with a common goal of applauding the power of one terrific idea and the realization of that vision through the efforts of many. Attendees were treated to enlightening keynote speeches, panel discussions, exhibits, tips and techniques, networking opportunities, Appalachian entertainment, and delicious food. Everyone had the opportunity to add paint to an actual eight-foot-by-eight-foot quilt square that is to be mounted on a barn in a neighboring county.
Highlighting the event were “Three Minutes of Fame” presentations, in which Quilt Trail representatives from various states gave overviews of their own Quilt Trails. These were necessarily brief because there were so many, but they were all impressive. The creative ways in which groups involved their communities via youth organizations such as 4-H, senior citizens, and local businesses; raised funds; selected sites for quilt squares that embodied the characteristics of their area (such as grange halls and fair buildings) when barns were not available; decided who would paint the squares; and publicized their trails were not only informative, they were exciting.
The Trails have definitely had a positive economic impact wherever they’ve been established, creating jobs for artists, providing merchandising opportunities for entrepreneurs, and bringing tourism dollars to local economies.
Most inspiring were the stories of the way the Quilt Trails have brought communities together, helped heal rifts between families, and provided means of expressing patriotism, local pride, and even love (such as the man who chose his wife’s favorite quilt block to go on his barn so that she, suffering with dementia, could look out the window, see it, and perhaps be reminded of a happier time in her life).
Donna Sue Groves was the heart and soul of the Quilt Trail Gathering and her mother, Nina Maxine, was its gracious hostess. Despite ill health, Donna Sue managed to imbue the event with vitality and positive focus. Without these two women, the American Quilt Trail Movement would not exist and it is their gentle, yet, dynamic spirits that provide the underpinning for its future expansion.
If the attendees at the Quilt Trail Gathering can serve as indicators of what can be accomplished, then it is quite possible that all of North America could one day be linked by a series of Quilt Trails.
Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement by Suzi Parron and Donna Sue Groves is being published by Swallow Press/Ohio University Press. It is scheduled to be released in February 2012.
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