Feature: Hoosick Barn Quilts

Posted on September 3rd, by Jack in Articles, Bennington Banner, Writing. No Comments

Feature: Hoosick Barn Quilts

Published in Berkshires Week on September 3, 2014
Original article: http://www.berkshireeagle.com/berkshiresweek/ci_26459978/patchwork-paint-along-quilt-trail

HOOSICK, N.Y. — Taking a new approach to a traditional art form, members of the community have worked all summer to create a most unconventional quilt — one that covers the entire town.

Starting the project in June, teams of painters and designers have created 31 wooden quilt squares, most measuring 8 feet wide by 8 feet tall, and mounted them on barns, houses and buildings throughout Hoosick Falls, Eagle Bridge, Buskirk, Petersburg Junction and other parts of the town, dotting the rural landscape with unique, handmade pieces of folk art.

“When you see the countryside and you see the farms — it’s just beautiful, and nobody knows it’s here except us,” said Deborah Alter, who organized the project as creative director of the Hoosick Armory Youth Center and Community Coalition, better known as HAYC3.

Although the quilts are spread around town, HAYC3 has organized them into a drivable trail, with free maps available at the armory. Alter said she hopes the barn quilt trail will show visitors the natural beauty of Hoosick’s rolling hills, wide open fields and historic barns.

While some artists produced theirs individually, 17 of the giant framed-plywood quilt squares were designed and painted at the HAYC3 Armory in the village of Hoosick Falls. Community members were invited to stop by and help paint the quilts during weekly farmers markets and other open painting times, working on a handful of squares at a time as they waited for each color to dry.

Each square of the quilt has a different design, from traditional pinwheels and stars to representational designs showing flowers, trees or variations on American flags.

“Most of the designs are traditional quilt patterns,” Alter said, “although we did use some non-traditional colors and original designs.”

With their bright colors, geometric shapes and clean lines, some of the squares could be mistaken for works of modern art, like the Sol LeWitt paintings on display at Mass MoCA. The simple designs and contrasting colors make the quilts stand out against their serene settings, catching the attention of each passerby on the country roads.

With HAYC3’s map in hand, following the barn quilt trail becomes a treasure hunt through the countryside. Quilts often appear unexpectedly as roads curve through the hills, and each one has its own unique visual identity and specific context. Some of the quilts are affixed to businesses in town, like the Hoosick True Value hardware store (which donated much of the paint and supplies for the project), and others appear more traditionally on working barns and farmhouses.

Seeing the quilts around town has been especially gratifying for the team of painters who worked on them all summer, including volunteer Suzanne Fitzpatrick, who said she is excited to see them all mounted in place after their months of work.

“Everything came together so nicely,” Fitzpatrick said. “In the beginning, when you put the first color on, you wouldn’t know how it was going to look, but they all look spectacular.”

While most of the quilts were built and painted by the community team at HAYC3, some intrepid individuals and outside groups joined in on the project and painted quilts of their own, like Amanda Haar, a local beekeeper who painted a honeycomb pattern on her family’s own barn quilt. The Yankee Pride Quilter’s Guild of Pittsfield even contributed a quilt square of their own, which now hangs on the barn of Gatus Farm in West Hoosick.

Barn quilt trails have become popular in rural communities over the past few years, with entire counties banding together to create trails in 42 states. While painting wooden squares with quilt patterns is a relatively new phenomenon, it draws from the timeless traditions of barn decoration and quilting.

“Everybody has a connection to quilting, or a quilt,” Alter said, explaining the inspiration for the project. “Everybody has slept under a quilt, their grandmother made a quilt, they’re learning to quilt, or they have a hand-me-down.”

Now the town of Hoosick has it’s own huge quilt, created by members of the community and on display for everyone to share and enjoy.

“It really was all about bringing together community and art,” Alter said, touching on one of HAYC3’s driving principles. In this sense, the barn quilt project functions as a successor to its Hidden Hoosick photography exhibit, which invited Hoosick residents to submit photos taken of the town for display in the organization’s gallery space. The gallery currently houses an exhibit of local fabric quilts to celebrate the barn quilt project.

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