Why We See Painted Quilts on Barns in New England
Quilts have meanings and stories. That's not new at all, as many people have them around their homes.
While writing an article on the meaning behind stars and their colors on barns around New England, I ran across the meaning of quilts on barns, and it's such an interesting story.
These barn quilts are painted on in perfect squares, diagonal patterns, colors, and symbols according to Taste of Home, and just like grandma's quilt lying on the couch or in the guest room, these quilts are most likely rooted in family tradition and have personal meaning. Get this: they're also all about a grassroots project for tourism and the arts.
Taste of Home says that unlike the tradition of stars on barns, which dates back to the first settlers in America, painted quilts on barns started in 2001.
A woman named Donna Sue Groves painted a quilt on her Ohio barn to honor her mother, who was a dedicated quilter. People were so intrigued that Donna Sue worked with the Ohio Arts Council not long after, according to Barn Quilt Info. Donna Sue's tribute to her mother Maxine's Appalachian heritage became a folk arts tour, as other families painted quilts representing their family heritage in the area. Thus begins barn quilt tours, which started sprouting up all over the country, including New England.
Donna Sue's inspiration has now created quilt trails in 48 states and Canada. People drive the countryside following a quilt map, and can see beautiful, meaningful quilts on barns all over.
This simple idea has resulted in more than 7,000 quilts. Of course, there are plenty of barns with quilts that aren't part of any arts tour, but we love the idea of paying tribute to family heritage with a painted quilt.
Now, some believe these painted quilts started in Europe and migrated to Amish country. However, according to Barn Quilt Info, there's absolutely no documentation that barn quilts existed prior to Donna Sue. Her touching gesture continues to create a movement and inspiration for what has become the largest grassroots public arts movement in the US and Canada.