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Column #53

Quilt Trail Gathering

Doll Quilts
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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Archived blogs:

Column 149: Rosie’s Redwork
Column 148: The Quilt of Belonging
Column 147: Kanthas—The Quilts of Bangladesh
Column 146: Patterns
Column 145: Suzy on Carolyn Mazloomi's Groundbreaking Quilt Exhibit
Column 144: Texas Community Marks Juneteenth Sesquicentennial with History Quilts
Column 143: Maya Embroidered Patchwork
Column 142: Huipil Patchwork Quilts
Column 141: Tom Korn’s Military Medal Quilts
Column 140: The Return of Double Knits!
Column 139: Passage Quilts
Column 138: Home of the Brave Quilts
Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
Column 136: Christmas in July
Column 135: Trifles
Column 134: Deaf Initiatives—Communicating Through Quilts
Column 133: My Betty Boop Quilt
Column 132: Maura Grace Ambrose
Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery

See other archived columns here

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