Press Release, RJ 5/8/2008

Effort underway to bring barn quilts to county

By Hillary Dickerson, Editor

Republican Journal
Darlington Wisconsin
Volume 146 - Number 19

Thursday, May 8, 2008

There is something rather unique on the road between Hazel Green and Galena, Ill. And that something, secured on the side of a barn, caught rural Cuba City resident Mary Jo Stutenberg’s eye. She was intrigued with the large quilt square on the barn and wanted to know more. With the more she’s learned, Stutenberg now calls barn quilts her passion.

Meanwhile, at about the same time Stutenberg’s interest in barn quilts was piqued, rural Darlington residents Lisa Carpenter and Heidi Brenum were attending a quilting bee at the Green County UW-Extension office where they met a group of women from that county who were starting the barn quilt effort there. Carpenter and Brenum were intrigued and knew they wanted to do something like that in Lafayette County.

 

Combine the two forces and born is the effort to bring barn quilts to Lafayette County. A group of 18 or so individuals has now met numerous times to get the project off the ground and plan their course of action in celebrating agricultural heritage while highlighting local buildings with quilt blocks. It is, they say, a push to “build a clothesline of quilts across Lafayette County.”

Stutenberg is really helping to lead the push to display these colorful squares on structures. Last fall she started to consider what kind of a square she’d like displayed on the barn on the 10-acre farmette where she and her husband live east of Cuba City.

“I must have talked about it enough,” she laughed of bending the ear of family members whenever she could. Her two sons and their significant others conspired to design one of the squares Stutenberg liked. They spent a weekend together bringing it to reality and then surprised Stutenberg on Christmas with the square featuring a patriotic design, a tribute to one of the Stutenbergs’ sons who spent a year in Iraq and to her father and father-in-law who were involved in World War II. The design is called “American Hero.”

“That was a great gift,” she said of the surprise Christmas Day when she was led to it in the garage.

If Stutenberg had been interested in the barn quilts before, having one of her own only inspired her to learn more. She talked with Cara Carper, a UW-Extension Agent in Lafayette County, who shared her enthusiasm and helped grow the effort during a three-month period.

Stutenberg has presented a Power Point presentation to Home and Community Education groups in Lafayette County, the 4-H Leaders Association and at River Valley Trading Post in Blanchardville.

“Little by little we’re trying to spread it and bring awareness,” she said. They’re also trying to pursue having a quilt square displayed at UW-Platteville’s Pioneer Farm, also located in Lafayette County, but that’s not yet formally approved. “I’m just so enthused to see so many people interested.”

The quilt squares, which people can enjoy all times of the year, are more than just something pretty attached to the side of a barn, said Stutenberg. She sees the quilts as a way to draw visitors to the area, pulling traffic off the main roads and through the smaller towns, where she hopes they’ll stop at restaurants, check out the shops and gain an appreciation for the history of agriculture in this corner of the state.

“They’re just works of art,” noted Stutenberg of the various designs and colors that can be created for display.

And as for Stutenberg’s square, it’s not in place just yet. She admits the entire project has become a rather expensive undertaking as they’re planning to side their barn this spring before hoisting the piece into place. They expect it’ll all be well worth it in the end, though, and ready for onlookers to enjoy by summer.

Anyone who is interested, is welcome to create a quilt of their own. Plans are available at the UW-Extension office. A quilt painting bee is being planned for this summer, as well, for those interested in an old-fashioned working celebration.

A booth will be set up at the Lafayette County Dairy Breakfast for those interested in painting a square or triangle on a barn quilt.

For more information on the barn quilt project, call Carper at UW-Extension at 776-4820; Stutenberg at 608-342-1625; or Candi Fitzsimons at 776-4591.