The first time I was saw a barn quilt was several years ago at “Grandma’s Garage Sale” deep in the peat bogs of the Goldstream Valley. I didn’t know what barn quilts were then, but was intrigued by a small painted quilt block of a simple red and white Ohio Star design, and I purchased the piece for 25 cents and brought it home. I didn’t know then that this bold geometric painting would alter the course of my professional painting practice and lead me on the endeavor of initiating Alaska’s first barn quilt trail: the Far North Quilt Trail Project (FNQTP).
A brief explanation of this relatively new folk art movement: barn quilts originated in Ohio in 2001, and have grown exponentially in popularity. These large, bold, geometric paintings placed on the sides of barns, businesses and other buildings are now found nationwide. Many barn quilts linked together in one area is known as a quilt trail. These self-guided touring trails positively impact both urban and rural areas in a myriad of ways by bringing attention to significant architecture, honoring familial heritage, and creating commerce in communities by ushering interest and tourism to the area.
A local artist that has been living and making work in Fairbanks since 2005, I’ve been interested in utilizing art to create community. In July of 2019, I founded the Far North Quilt Trail Project with the intent of establishing a distinctly unique quilt trail, instilling local pride with each piece installed. The FNQTP has the capacity to reach a broad range of individuals and will bring people of all ages, backgrounds, and disciplines together in a celebration of local history and culture, while simultaneously creating lasting partnerships between artists, enthusiasts and organizations within our community. Public art is uniquely accessible and enables people to experience art in the course of daily life, outside of museums or other cultural institutions, and we aim to create such accessibility to art in Fairbanks and the surrounding area.
The FNQTP has already initiated the quilt trail, with the first two public barn quilts completed in May 2020, and “Junco’s” and “Sunflower Star” to be installed at the Fairbanks Community Garden in June of 2020. With support from local non-profit organizations the Fairbanks Community Garden and Our 2 Cents Inc., the Far North Quilt Trail Project was awarded grant funding to create these two barn quilts. In November of 2019, local downtown business establishment Goldie’s AK commissioned the FNQTP to paint a large quilt block mural titled “Snow Crystals”.
In February of 2020, the Alaska Chapter: Awesome Foundation awarded Somer Hahm and the FNQTP with grant funding to complete a barn quilt at the historic barn at Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge. With generous community support from the Friends of Creamer’s Field and a positive working relationship with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the “Flying Geese” barn quilt will be created at an “Artist in Residence” on site and installed August 2020 during the Sandhill Crane Festival. The “Flying Geese” barn quilt at the historic Dairy Barn at Creamer’s Field will be the cornerstone of the Far North Quilt Trail, the starting off point for a citywide scavenger hunt for public art.
The Far North Quilt Trail aims to stretch the concept of where paintings can live! Fairbanks needs more public art; public art humanizes the constructed environment and invigorates public spaces. The goal of the Far North Quilt Trial Project is to facilitate, encourage and support public arts development in the Fairbanks area. We hope that you will join us in celebrating art and the new places that it can live and thrive in our community. Please follow along on social media @thefarnorthquilttrailproject and at thefarnorthquilttrailproject.com
Somer Hahm Creative Director/ The Far North Quilt Trail Project