Barn quilts made with a vision

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Paul Carroll returned to West Liberty last Wednesday with a mission, the Muscatine man wasn't about to let the elements keep him down.

It all started during the Children's Festival, Sept. 28. Carroll hauled six large wooden squares out to the festivities. A booth was set up, paint laid out and children were given the opportunity to work on barn quilts.

"During the festival I probably had 25 to 30 kids and parents work on them," he said,"But once the rain came we had to run them into West Liberty Foods out of convenience."

And so the giant squares were left unfinished, but they were never forgotten. Just four days later Carroll returned to West Liberty to finish what he started.

"The kids like it," he said. "I brought large ones a few years ago to the festival, but it didn't work out. This time I brought smaller squares so any kid walking by could do one."

For Carroll these barn quilts are part of a larger vision, one that incorporates Muscatine, West Liberty, Letts, Wilton and other communities.

That in mind, he set up paint and the squares behind Ron-De-Voo Park once again last Wednesday. After snagging down various community members, the squares were mostly completed and distributed to interested community members.

However, these quilts are only the beginning of a larger project, one Carroll has deemed the "Barn Quilt/History Tour."

The vision began a few years ago when Carroll, on behalf of the Bloomington Grange, applied for a grant from the Keep Iowa Beautiful Program.

He received $1,000 from the grant, as well as donations from Bloomington Grange and other private donors, to get the project off the ground. In it, youth are provided paint and wood to create barn quilts.

However, the project never really took off until earlier this Spring when East Campus, an alternative school district in Muscatine, got involved. The quilts allowed students to work on real world projects and develop skills.

Now he wants to use these quilts, as well as ones created at festivals and other events, as part of a 70 mile, two hour, history driving tour in our area.

"The focus of the tour is to give the history of Muscatine County and its industry told through a CD or other audio device while driving," he said.

The quilts would be used as part of the tour, incorporating the youth's work into the project.

"The beauty of this project is that it incorporates everyone," Carroll added. "In West Liberty we would probably highlight the depot, and also West Liberty Foods is a great story, one I'd like told by one of the turkey producers."

He envisions community members telling the story, as well as experts on local history. However, it all starts with barn quilts.

"That deal Saturday with the festival was incredible, I commend your community for such a great event," he said. It gave him the perfect opportunity to spread art, quilts, and most importantly, his vision.
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