June 6, 2009

Quilts on Barns is back, with three installations

Kathi Wilson with her brothers Peter and David, giving quilt a final touch-up

It was perfect "quilt" weather Saturday for Kathi Wilson. She was standing outside, wrapped in one quilt -- the warm cloth variety, trying to keep warm -- while another -- this one painted on plywood -- was hung on the side of a barn in Caledonia. Quilts on Barns is back.

Ah, bliss!

Wilson, you'll remember, is the woman who came up with the idea of hanging 4-ft. by 8-ft. painted "quilts" on barns last summer, and oversaw the hanging of 15 of them. Well, she and the Racine Arts Council, are back, with another six this year, and the first three of these were hung Saturday morning. The next three will be put up in July. That's both good news and bad news in one: the good news is that more quilts are being hung; the bad news is that it's only six and the project will now end earlier than once planned, victim of the difficulty in finding sponsors in this economic climate.

The first quilt was hung this morning on a barn owned by Bill and Sue Arostegui at 29614 Mt. Tom Rd., Burlington. It's the Vine of Friendship pattern, and was painted by Girl Scouts. Sponsors were JM Electric and Pat & Mark Levine. (The pattern is sometimes called Drunkard's Path; and the backstory of this particular barn quilt is here.)

The second quilt was hung on a lovely, well known barn adorned with large painted letters at one end proclaiming Rose Hill, 1918, owned by Harry and Sherry Gruhn, located at 17201 Old Yorkville Rd., Yorkville. You can see it from Route 20 a little west of Ives Grove. It now sports a Swing on a Star quilt, painted by the Gruhn Family, sponsored by Stericycle.

Rose Hill was the family's farm from great-grampa's day; the barn actually dates long before 1918 -- that's merely the date it was rebuilt after a fire. Sherry Gruhn is one of nine siblings who inherited homesteads when their parents died and the 82-acre farmstead was broken up; five of them live within sight of the barn, and this morning's quilt hanging was an occasion for a family reunion of sorts with a groaning table of breakfast party food. Many friends and family members signed the back of the quilt (as above) before it was hung. The messages probably won't be seen again for another 100 years or so.

Sherry Gruhn, who painted most of the quilt herself, in the barn's basement with help from two of her sisters, said she's been waiting for this day for more than a year; from the time she first heard of Wilson's project she wanted her barn included.

Said Wilson, as the quilt was hung, "The most fun is to turn around and see everybody's face as it goes up...to see all the smiles."

The third quilt went on a barn owned by Chuck and Kari Lee, at 1509 51st St., Caledonia. It's called Mosaic and was painted by employees of Educators Credit Union, and was sponsored by ECU.

Chuck Lee remembers how his barn was chosen: Al Barry, right, head of the Quilts on Barns installation crew was driving around the county, looking for attractive barns visible from well-travelled roads. He knocked on the Lees' door one morning last December -- but Chuck, who had not heard of the project, was cautious. "You never know what people who knock on your door are pushing. I said, 'I'll have to ask my wife,' " Chuck told him ... but when they went to church and mentioned the encounter, many people told them what a good project it is -- not a scam at all -- and the Lees quickly signed on.

They have a 21-acre farm -- on which Chuck, a metalworker, raises beef cattle and outbuildings on which he manages to erect a collection of antique weather vanes. He temporarily took down a beauty -- a copper rooster -- to protect it from possible injury from the bucket lift used to reach the upper reaches of the barn front.

In October, the project will come to an end with a reception at the Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau. For Kathi Wilson it will be bittersweet; she's disappointed that funding dried up earlier this year than expected ... but eager to get on with some new projects.

Our stories and pictures 0f 2008's Quilts on Barns are HERE.

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