Several local artists have volunteered to paint quilt squares to be installed on barns or public buildings throughout Letcher County. The project began in Ohio a few years ago and is spreading very rapidly throughout the Midwest and into the Southern states.
The purpose of the project is to promote tourism by creating driving tours to encourage people to visit our area. The project was originally known as barn art because many of the quilt squares were painted on barns in rural farm regions. The interest grew so rapidly that the urban population decided to give the art form a new dimension. Now you will find quilt squares painted on public buildings in towns and cities.
Some individuals are now installing free-standing and movable quilt squares on their porches, in their yards and on the sidewalks in front of participating businesses. Many find it to be an ideal way to celebrate their heritage, decorate the neighborhood and express themselves artistically.
I had a pleasant visit last week when Bessie Shepherd and I visited some very nice people at the Eolia Christian Community Outreach facility, ECCO, at Eolia.
Program Director Brenda Gross welcomed us and showed us around the facility and told us about their mission. The program was established in 1987 and works to provide resources, manpower, commodities and other goods in social ministries to the needs of the people in and around Letcher County.
She then introduced us to the two artists who have completed two murals of various traditional quilt patterns painted on plywood. The artwork will be installed on the exterior of the ECCO facility. ‘Tiny’ Creech and her daughter, Yolanda Miranda, are involved in the program at the ECCO center and volunteered to paint the squares free of charge.
‘Tiny’ has liked doing pencil drawings from the time she was a child. When a new calf was born on her parents’ farm, she would take a pencil and paper to the barn and try to draw pictures of the newborn calf. Through the years she has enjoyed quilting and creating her original designs which allowed her to create some prize winning fabric art. A hairdresser by profession, ‘Tiny’ still finds time to volunteer at the ECCO center and at the Poor Fork Arts and Crafts Guild in Cumberland where much of her artistry is for sale. She recently got into painting pictures with acrylic paint.
She and her daughter, Yolanda, participated in the Paint the Town project by painting quilt squares on a garage door on Main Street in Cumberland. She also belongs to a Homemakers Club in Cumberland and recently helped make a crazy quilt to raise money for Relay for Life.
Yolanda. ‘Yo’, and her husband live in Eolia where she is a stay-at-home mom who home schools her two children, ages 6 and 3. Her husband is an operations manager at a call center in Clintwood, Va. ‘Yo’ developed an interest in art while in middle school and took classes in high school and college. “I got all of my talent from my mom,” she said proudly. She also does quilting.
‘Tiny’ and Yolanda then accompanied us to Cumberland to view some of the Paint the Town artwork and for a visit to the Poor Fork Arts and Crafts Center. The center exhibits and sells a very impressive collection of handcrafted items by Appalachian artisans.
We concluded our visit by talking with Brenda Gross about some of the things they are doing in the ECCO program. They sell quilts and other handcrafted items and they hope to add a new dimension to their program by selling quilt squares. During the early years of the ministry the ladies made quilts and sold them to raise money for the center. The center is a faithbased, non-denominational organization whose mission is to spread the word of Jesus Christ and help the needy.
Several artists throughout Letcher County are currently painting quilt squares to be installed soon. Bessie Shepherd and Ked Sanders are painting three squares which will be installed on the street side of the stage at Heritage Village in Whitesburg. They are also members of the Quilt Heritage Project. Sharman Chapman-Crane is the program coordinator.