New Project: Ontario-wide support by Ontario Trillium Foundation

Project Background and Objectives


The goal of the  Ontario Barn Quilt Trails project is to promote barn quilt trails throughout Ontario as a way to tell community stories.  There will be a conference in October to share best practices and tools for implementing community barn quilt projects. The project will provide seed funding to a few communities to demonstrate how a project is put together.


Barn quilts are already popping up across Ontario.  What is needed now is a powerful on-line map where (1) communities can register their barn quilts, (2) where appreciators can discover and read the stories that go with the barn quilts (and plan their trip to visit them), and (3) where businesses and organizations can help promote the barn quilt trails.


Barn quilts have proven to be powerful medium for communities to tell their stories.   Museum curators across the five counties of Elgin, Oxford, Norfolk, Middlesex, and Elgin established several trails in 2012. They discovered that barn quilts work at many levels:


Rural multi-culturalism and diversity are chronicled. Barn quilts tell the stories of successive waves of immigrants to rural Ontario.


First Nations communities identify with this art form as a medium through which to interpret and record their oral history.  Chippewa of the Thames women stitched the Trail of Tears Quilt and each of the 31 quilt blocks were painted to commemorate the First Nation Women & Families of the War of 1812.


Barn Quilts foster creativity.    Barn quilts honour quilters and draw attention to the textile arts community, its history, and its importance as an art form.


Barn quilt projects are a fresh way to invite newcomers to get involved in their community.  Community voluntarism is promoted and appreciated.  Artists and artisans step up and take the lead, offering their expertise.  South Caradoc in Middlesex County used a barn quilt project to rebuild neighbourhood ties and tell their settlement story.


Elementary and secondary school levels use barn quilts as a means of enhancing curriculum – local history, agricultural heritage, geometry, textile arts. Mosa Central School and Glencoe District High School painted barn quilts right on campus, contributing to Wardsville’s barn quilt trail.


Young people can also help with the digital component.  Rural communities  and businesses need help to “get back on the map”.  The travelling public must be able to find our rural communities on-line.  This project will show how barn quilts can provide a way for the travelling public to connect with the people whose landscape they are travelling through. Youth have a big role to play in helping their rural communities get on-line.


A series of barn quilts located on a road with history instantly creates a trail. Barn quilts draw attention to heritage barns which are fast disappearing from the rural landscape.  Sometimes the barn owners who host the barn quilts paint and repair these timberframe structures.


Farms, businesses, and communities can install barn quilts as part of their promotion strategies.   The first barn quilts in Ontario started going up in 2008 when a few women in Temiscaming painted over 96 barn quilts that were installed in time for the International Plowing Match in September 2009.


Funding for this grant is from OTF’s province-wide granting stream.  OTF funding is intended to create opportunities for families and individuals of all ages and abilities to become more engaged in their communities. In this case, barn quilts are the medium – an 8 foot square painting of a quilt block installed on a heritage barn.


Link the barn quilt painting to a website and we explain the significance of the artwork.   String a few barn quilts together and a community can establish a trail that tells its story.   Provide the means for communities across Ontario to publish the locations, photos, and stories of their barn quilt trails online and we will build a powerful digital database that helps preserve local heritage.


Barn quilt projects engage people in community life. Barn quilt trails will transform communities and lives in positive ways.  This project will leverage the power of barn quilts for positive social change, community building and economic impact.



OBQT Project Goals:

  • Promote barn quilt trails throughout the Province as a way to tell communities’ stories.

  • Hold a conference to share best practices and tools about how to develop and implement community barn quilt projects.

  • Build an on-line map where (1) communities can register their barn quilts, (2) where appreciators can discover and read the stories that go with the barn quilts (and plan their trip to visit them), and (3) where businesses and organizations can help promote the barn quilt trails.

  • Engage more people in the rural arts and culture, especially those who would not otherwise have access

  • Honour quilters and draw attention to the textile community, it history, and its importance as an art form.

  • Provide seed funding to establish barn quilt trails in several communities throughout Ontario in order to build interest and demonstrate the barn quilt trail concept to Ontario

  • Demonstrate innovation and creativity by blending location-based digital technology and the arts

  • Demonstrate barn quilts as a catalyst for social enterprise development based on community creativity, storytelling, partnership development, architecture preservation, tourism, heritage appreciation, and community involvement, and the digital world.

  • Link with rural communities in the U.S. and other parts of Canada to establish friendship ties of appreciation and mutual support.





Appendix A: Official MEDIA RELEASE April 9th, 2013

Tourism Middlesex is recipient of Province Wide Ontario Trillium Foundation Grant for Barn Quilt Trails

Strathroy – Tourism Middlesex is the lead on this collaborative project, receiving a one year, $115,400 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) to increase capacity and host a conference to establish ‘barn quilt trails’ across Ontario to celebrate heritage traditions in rural communities. Barn quilt trails integrate artists, quilters, educators, farmers, businesses to reproduce – as large paintings on plywood – traditional quilt designs that tell stories of place, culture and community history through a system of tourism trails.

Funding for this grant is from OTF’s province-wide granting stream as this initiative will impact several areas of the province. OTF’s support will help community organizations to increase their impact and create sustainable benefits for residents and their communities. OTF funding will create more opportunities for families and individuals of all ages and abilities to get more engaged in the community through increased activities, programs and infrastructure.


“The Middlesex Barn Quilt Trail program has been well received and thoroughly enjoyed by communities and participants alike. I’m excited to see Tourism Middlesex taking the lead to bring this successful program to communities throughout Ontario. Barn Quilts help connect local artists, quilters, educators, farmers, businesses and individuals throughout our rural communities. They draw from our history and inform our present. Barn Quilts are an important tourism initiative that began here in Middlesex County.

Monte McNaughton, MPP Lambton-Kent-Middlesex

“Tourism Middlesex it very grateful to the Ontario Trillium Foundation; it has been through their support we were able to introduce Doors Open to Middlesex County in 2011. The transitional funding we received in 2012 has made it possible for us to continue to work with our tourism partners to promote Middlesex County as a destination. We are very excited about this provincial grant. This will allow us to expand the Barn Quilt Trial throughout the province by sharing best practices, lessons learned and in some cases seed money to assist others get started.” – Sheila Devost, Tourism Manager, Tourism Middlesex

A leading grant-maker in Canada, the Ontario Trillium Foundation strengthens the capacity of the voluntary sector through investments in community-based initiatives. An agency of the Government of Ontario, OTF builds healthy and vibrant communities.  For more information, please go to:

For more information, please contact: Sheila Devost, at or 519-245-8951

About Mary Simpson

Mary is one of the facilitators for, a Canadian network of quilters, rural organizations, museums, historians, sponsors and many others with a passion for rural Canada. We are working together to promote and enhance rural creativity, the arts, Canadian heritage and culture.

Posted on April 20, 2013, in Barn Quilt Champions., Tips & Techniques., What's the impact?. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. love the website –would be wonderful to see a book

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