A Pocahontas County Quilt Trail Could Be Coming To A Barn Or Shed Near You
Marlinton, WV – It’s one of the quintessential forms of American folk art – the quilt. And it may soon be coming to a barn or other structure near you. But these are not quilts made of colorful fabric and intricate stitching; no these are quilt squares constructed of wood and outdoor paints designed to withstand whatever Mother Nature throws at them. This idea, borrowed from Ohio, is now in full bloom in Monroe County, with more than 50 of the wooden quilt images on display throughout the county. Cara Rose, along with some very enthusiastic local quilters, is eager to bring the idea to Pocahontas County.
Rose is Executive Director of the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau. She and a small group of quilters representing the Minnehaha, Cranberry and Buffalo Mountain quilting groups, met with Monroe County artist Joan Menard and Doris McCurdy recently to talk about the Monroe County quilt tour.
Menard moved from Washington, D.C. to Monroe County in hopes of starting an arts center, but that idea never really took off. But in the course of doing some Americorps volunteer work, she discovered the vast sense of pride residents took in their quilts.
“I realized that this is what our county was proud of and as I went around with my Americorps presentations, they were so proud of their farming and the fact that their mom made quilts,” says Menard. “So it was how do we pay homage to our quilters and then also help save these barns that are getting torn down.”
She went to an agritourism conference and while there discovered that there was grant funding available to help bring her ideas to fruition. Once she overcame the initial reticence of those who thought quilts were only for beds, the idea began to take on a life of its own.
They formed a committee and came up with a list of 12 quilt blocks that were sown and placed on display during Farmers Day, a local festival. The public was invited to vote for their favorite designs, and the number was winnowed to six. A few months later, the first of the wooden quilts were completed and displayed at another festival. From that modest beginning, the project has grown to over 50 quilt squares on display around the county, a brochure of the quilt locations, and even an I-phone app. Cara Rose is very excited about bringing this project to Pocahontas.
“We’ll begin identifying barns and specifics about how we intend to choose the initial patterns,” says Rose, “and begin garnering support.”
Rose emphasizes that the quilts could be displayed on any structure, not just barns. She says like Monroe County, they anticipate having a variety of quilt blocks to choose from.
“They started out with six and then it was suggested that 12 would be better, so ultimately 12 became the number for them,” says Rose. “But I think we may very well be successful identifying more than 12 in this county.”
In addition to quilters and barn owners, Rose has also identified others in the community who would be interested in the project such as the arts council and artisans coop. Dr. Arthur Kreft, President of the Arts Council was also present at the initial meeting.
“We’re going to identify sources of funding and how we may raise funds as well, so there’s going to be multiple ways for us to do that I think,” says Rose. “Clearly we’ll look for grants of different natures, but we’re fortunate enough in this county that we have organizations that have a flow of revenue that probably will be able to support this, like the Arts Council for instance.”
“So we’ll be seeking some support from them and of course the convention and visitor’s bureau. You know, I think we can probably raise some private funds as well.”
Once the quilt designs have been chosen, Rose says the public will have a chance to give their input. She anticipates that samples will be ready in time for Pioneer Days this summer.
“They have a quilt show during Pioneer Days and we think that we should be able to get a sample painted,” she says. “Dr. Kreft is very excited about the project and I think we have a location already to do the painting; I believe they’ll be able to support the cost of the paint and supplies. We have a large artisans group of people in the county not only that do their own types of work but also who belong to the art coop, so I think we’ll have access to someone who can help us map out the initial pattern that we’re going to sample.”
Rose says she’s even thought of doing a sesquicentennial quilt tour featuring patterns unique to both the Civil War and West Virginia. The next meeting about the project is tentatively scheduled for April 4th. Anyone interested in getting more information about the quilt tour can call the Pocahontas County CVB office at 304-799-4636.