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'Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement,' by Suzi Parron with Donna Sue Groves
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BY MARY BETH BRECKENRIDGE
Akron Beacon Journal
AKRON, Ohio--Paintings of quilt squares are popping up on barns around the country.
They're more than just a folksy attempt to beautify the rural landscape. These are the engines of a movement to promote tourism and spark economic development across rural America.
The movement was started by an Ohioan, Donna Sue Groves, and is the subject of the new book "Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement" by Suzi Parron.
It all started with one boring tobacco barn.
That barn belongs to Groves, who lives in southern Ohio's rural Adams County. It's on the nonworking farm she and her mother, Maxine Groves, bought in 1989, and its plainness bothered her.
She got the idea of painting a quilt-square design to beautify the unadorned exterior and honor her mother, a quilter. But years went by, and she never followed through.
"It got to be a joke among my friends," she recalled. "They'd say, 'Did you paint that quilt square yet?'"
Still, the idea stayed in the back of her mind. And when she went to work for the Ohio Arts Council and saw how murals painted on buildings could be used to build community pride and spur tourism, she recognized that her simple idea could have similar implications.
Why paint just one quilt square on one barn? she thought. Why not paint quilt patterns on a bunch of barns and create an art trail?
Tourists could come to see them, and the dollars they'd bring would benefit hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, gas stations, restaurants and all sorts of businesses.
She was part of a group of volunteers that developed the concept, and in October 2001 Adams County put up the first square.
"Mother didn't get her quilt square till three years later," Groves said with a laugh.
But a movement had begun.
In the years since, the quilt barn movement has spread to 43 states, where communities have created and installed quilt squares on barns or other sites and organized those sites into tourist trails.
The creation of a quilt barn trail is usually a well-planned undertaking that follows guidelines first established by the Adams County group and continually refined by groups that have followed. But "there are no hard-core rules that you have to follow," Groves said.