Before visitors enter the doors of Midway Middle School, the pride of agriculture is shown by artwork of sweet potatoes, tobacco, turkeys and hogs — on a large piece of wood mounted to the building.
“It’s a tribute to how important agriculture is to Sampson County and a tribute to FFA,” Educator Leasa Hodges said about the student’s barn quilt project. “We’ve come a long way and know where we came from. Agriculture is still a big part of our future.”
With colorful and carefully crafted designs, many Sampson County residents are showing their heritage through wooden blocks on homes.
“These people are just proud of their barn quilts,” said Sheila Barefoot, director of the Sampson County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). Barefoot hopes more joyful residents display quilts throughout the area by getting involved with the Barn Quilts of Sampson County project. It’s a collaboration among Sampson County’s History Museum, Cooperative Extension Service, Arts Council and CVB. It’s purpose is to provide an art element throughout the area by placing paintings of quilt patterns on barns or other buildings.
“It originally started on barns to showcase Sampson County’s rich agricultural heritage, that’s what we were looking for,” Barefoot said. “But it really caught on.”
The designs are now on homes and other structures. Many designs and patterns reflect family or something special to the owner. Some show occupations like farming or some other business.
“They try to name it according to their personal preference,” Barefoot said. “It means something to them. It’s just really neat how people make it their own.”
Currently, more than 70 quilts of various sizes are documented throughout Sampson County. The owners are being asked to participate in the official trail. Some are on waiting list to have quilts commissioned. To qualify, the quilts have to be hung in Sampson County and must be visible from the road.
“These artist are so incredible with some of the ways they can paint,” she said about the designs made out of plywood and several coats of paint.
Thanks to the work of Kellie and Madonna Tew of Tew Barn Quilts (designer of Midway Middle’s FFA project), many are located in the Autryville area, but Barefoot would like to see more around Sampson County.
“I would love to get them all spread out,” Barefoot said.
One of the goals is to produce a trail brochure to guide visitors to each location. It will be designed showing artwork, which will serve as a resource to attract visitors.
“I’m just excited to get it going,” Barefoot said. “I would love to have a brochure completed by the end of the year.”
A master file of all barn quilts with location, contact information and photos of each barn quilt has been developed. After completion, rack cards will also be placed in brochure stands.
“That’s where these will ultimately be so visitors will have a part of this,” Barefoot said. “I’m sure some Sampson County residents will enjoy doing this also.”
In addition to Barefoot, the other organizers include Eileen Coite, director of the cooperative extension, Kay Raynor, president of the History Museum and Kara Donatelli, director of the Arts Council. It was initiated a couple of years ago by Vickie Crane, former director of the CVB, with committee members including Crane, Raynor and the Dan Holland family. Volunteers and painters produced more than 14 quilts which are now part of the trail. The Arts Council commissioned and funded six quilts.
“I think it’s a really fun project,” Hodges said about her involvement with students. “There’s a lot of interest with tourism and I think it’s really nice when the quilts that individuals put up represents their agricultural heritage.”
Through the program, Barefoot mentioned that the costs for an 8-by-8 is $200 and $100 for 4-by-4. During its last meeting, the CVB board agreed to pay up to $200 for municipalities throughout town to have barn quilts on their communities.
For more information about the Sampson County Barn Quilt Project or obtaining a barn quilt, contact the Sampson County CVB or Barefoot at 910-592-2557.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.