One day, more than a month ago, on my drive back home to Baileys Harbor from work in Sturgeon Bay, I noticed a very large and very colorful square stuck to the side of a barn on Highway 57, just south of Sevastopol Schools. It was one of those things that just caught my attention for a tiny moment as I was zooming by (but completely obeying the speed limit, mind you). Who knows how many more times I went past before I noticed it again. And then, yet again. So I started wondering “what’s with that…. ‘thing’?”
Lucky for me, I happen to know that the people at the Door County Visitor Bureau can point anyone in the right direction! It turns out that there is an organized project in Door County that is putting these colorful objects on our rural landscape. They are known as Barn Quilts. Of course, keeping things simple (at least initially) I wanted to know where I could see more of them! So, I picked up a brochure had just been printed and distributed this month - it provides the locations for 23 different Barn Quilts in Door County.
It doesn’t take much to convince me to get behind the wheel of my car and drive. Somehow, I manage to put on more than 30,000 miles a year without leaving Door County very often!! According to the Barn Quilts of Door County Location Guide, there’s another one on my drive home that I had never noticed, and another that I had passed on one of my occasional trips to Green Bay. Within a week, I had seen 5 of them without much effort. Actually, I saw 6 of them: Kewaunee County has the same project and there is one right down the road from my brother-in-law’s place just south of the Door-Kewaunee county line.
They’re beautiful. Simply beautiful. Each has its own individual design and colors, with descriptions like “Apple Tree”, “Crazy Quilt”, “North Star” and “Storm at Sea”. I know that I’m not doing them justice to only view them as I’m cruising past, traveling at highway speeds. They deserve my attention, to allow myself time to really see the pattern within each quilt. But, now I’m getting more curious and I want to know more about them and how they came to be.
The brochure explains that the Door County Barn Quilt Program started in 2010 and the driving force behind it is the Door County UW-Extension office. This project has successfully combined history, agriculture, architecture and art and is encouraging education and economic development, as well. Wow! So much for keeping it simple! The majority of them are in the Southern part of our county and I’m always looking for a reason to explore my old “stomping grounds” again.
These Barn Quilts are wooden blocks that are anywhere from 6 – 8 square feet and are painted a variety of colors – vibrant, beautiful colors that jump off the side of the host barns. I wonder how I could have ever missed them!! There must have been dozens, if not hundreds, of volunteers who helped create them – 4-H & FFA members, adult leaders and volunteers, other youth helpers. It’s more than a beautiful addition to our remarkable landscape – it’s another example of what an incredible community Door County is. All these people, coming together to create something that they believe in: without pay, without fanfare. And, we’re the ones who benefit from their hard work, skill, talent, and passion.
It’s so easy to wander into a gallery in one of our lovely downtown areas and to gaze upon the beauty that is perfectly displayed and maintained. We are so fortunate to have that opportunity. But, to have our rural landscape transformed into a random, unexpected display of art…. well, it sure makes you realize that you just never know where you’re going to find art. So, as you’re driving around Door County, turn off the highway, slow down and enjoy the scenery of the back roads. You just might be rewarded with one of 23 Barn Quilts! Or – keep it simple and pick up a Barn Quilt brochure and follow the map. Whatever you decide, enjoy yourself.