Barn quilts brighten Carver County landscape

Barn quilts are on barns scattered throughout Carver County – from Chanhassen to Mayer.  The  idea of  barn quilts comes from Ohio. They can now be found in Wisconsin and Iowa, too.

The barn quilt project was introduced to Carver County through the Arts Consortium of Carver County.  ACCC member Suzanne Thiesfeld and newcomer, Naomi Russell attended the Board of Directors’ January 2011 monthly meeting.  They presented the plan and asked the Consortium to assist with the “kick-off.”  The Consortium agreed to use its 501c3 status to be the fiscal sponsor for the project, enabling it to apply for a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.  The project   grant was awarded and in April the Barn Quilts of Carver County (BQCC) was unveiled at the ACCC Membership Gala at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater.

The barn quilt patterns are designed and painted on two pieces of plywood combined to make and 8 foot by 8 foot square.  When completed, the two  pieces are framed with wood and attached to a barn.  The process starts with an application to the BQCC.  The patterns are chosen by the barn owner(s).  The patterns frequently relate to family heritage; some are literally lifted from a family quilt. Artist Suzanne draws each design. Most families participate in the painting – a generational event.  Two coats of paint – then a sealant is applied.  Finally, the frame is mounted.  The equipment and man power for this job have been donated by the Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative.

During the first summer, 13 barn quilts went up.  During 2012, 10 more were mounted. Many more are scheduled for this summer.  The barn quilt project brings open-air art to Carver County.   Free art.  It brings common interest and collaboration among family members, renews community between neighbors and starts conversations with strangers who drive slowly by or stop for a photograph.

Local tours have been organized. A St. Paul artist set up his easel is a farmhouse yard and painted the barn and quilt across the street.  Minneapolis folks have inquired about tours.  Teenagers notice when new ones go up. Art and the community.

Applications are still available.  Visit the website —  www.barnquiltsofcarvercounty.com — for applications, maps and a virtual tour. Each family’s story is written as its quilt is mounted. Carl Melichar of Mayer was one of the first.  Read his story in this week’s Carver County News.

Barb Hone is on the Arts Consortium of Carver County board of directors. Her column is a monthly feature of the Carver County News.

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