MIAMI – A fantastic idea is close to reality once “Oklahoma's Largest Barn Quilt” finds a place to be displayed. The Barn Quilt is the vision of Connie Benedict, a retired Miami art teacher and now studio art instructor.
“I became interested in the Barn Quilt and the Barn Quilt Trail after hearing about the Largest Barn Quilt in Kansas,” Benedict said. “After doing a little research on the subject, I put out a post from my studio Facebook page to see if anyone would be interested in joining me at the studio to create a barn quilt for our community.”
Barn quilts consist of one or more large wooden squares colorfully painted to look like bright and beautiful fabric quilt blocks. Each of the 56 painted two feet by four feet wooden blocks in “Oklahoma's Largest Barn Quilt” was created in Benedict's, The '57 Studio of Fine Art in Miami, by 75 contributing local artists. Each block has been weather and UV sealed and protected, and the 20 feet by 20 feet Barn Quilt is ready to be displayed.
Benedict received help from several area women, including Sonja Frisbie and Rachel Hardee who each lent their artistic talents to paint the large four feet square center panel depicting flowers, wild strawberries and insects and the words Miami, Oklahoma. The Barn Quilt also contains two Route 66 blocks, and several vividly colorful designs for a standout, grab-your-attention, one-of-a-kind, artistic tourism attraction.
“I’m so proud of all the wonderful people that came together block by block to paint designs that stitch our community together with creativity and love,” Benedict said. “The whole idea was to do it for our community.”
A couple of locations considered for the quilt’s display have not worked out, but Benedict and the other artists involved are hopeful the Barn Quilt will soon find it's perfect location. Benedict has been scouting several locations and ideas and visiting with city and county officials in efforts to find a place to display and showcase the large art piece. They hope a local business or building owner will agree to display the Barn Quilt.
The Barn Quilt can be mounted on treated lumber on a building or on poles set in the ground in a rectangular or square pattern as would best suit the location.
“This is a journey,” she said. “It will happen. I am certain that it will find its perfect home soon. Wherever it is displayed, it will draw tourism.”
The Barn Quilt cost $3,645 total in materials and workshop fees, plus another $80 for sealer. Countless hours of labor was involved by each artist. Benedict said the quilt would be free to the business, building or site owner, and would cost them only installation expenses. Installation costs are estimated to be around $350, and fundraising could help cover this expense.
“It is beautiful and will attract tourism which will increase traffic flow to any business area,” she said. “It's a win, win. The quilt block artists that participated in creating this ‘Oklahoma's Largest Barn Quilt’ will be very happy that you appreciated their hard work and money spent to make this beautiful work of art happen.”
Businesses in other nearby towns have shown interest and want to display the quilt, but Benedict says she and the other artists involved created the piece for Miami and want it to stay here if possible.
Barn quilts date back to the mid-1800s when German and Swiss immigrants settling in Pennsylvania painted folk art symbols, such as stars, compass roses, or birds, on barns to celebrate their heritage and bring good fortune. It also became an excellent way for travelers to find particular families or crossroads as towns people would just tell them which pattern to look for. The art form then spread to much of the New England and Midwestern states.
Revitalization of the folk art has spread across the country with quilt trails mapped out throughout communities to encourage visitors to travel through the countryside and to rural communities to see these unique works of art.
Barn quilts have become popular again with more and more becoming visible. Quilt trails have been developed in many states. After a number of barn quilts have been displayed in an area, a map is developed that guides the viewers to the location. The quilts can be put on any type of building, from houses, garages, sheds or just mounted on two posts and displayed in a yard or a park.
The map will have an address, maybe a picture of the square and a name or explanation of its meaning and can be found online. A few of the states that have developed quilt trails include, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa and of course, Michigan.
Benedict plans to register “Oklahoma's Largest Barn Quilt” on the American Barn Quilt Trail Map, making the project an important tourism attraction for Miami as well as the state.
Anyone interested in displaying “Oklahoma’s Largest Barn Quilt,” donating to help cover the expense of installation or with questions can contact Benedict through message on the “Oklahoma’s Largest Ban Quilt’ Facebook page or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.