Thanks to a grant from the Kingsport Community Foundation, folks will soon be able to Follow the Quilt Trail into downtown Kingsport. Vibrantly painted 4’x’4 quilt murals will begin to appear later this fall on the facades of buildings through out the downtown area. The murals are currently being painted by volunteer professional and amateur artists, and are on display for viewing, at 210 Broad St., a space donated for the Quilt Trail’s use by John and Angela Vachon. Students at Cora Cox Academy (formerly New Horizons Alternative School) painted the two murals currently displayed on the Kingsport Farmer’s Market building.
The choice of quilt designs came directly from the residents of Kingsport and Sullivan County. A call for historical quilts to be considered as inspiration for the project was solicited throughout the community in spring 2012. Over 50 people responded and brought their own family heirlooms for consideration. It was difficult to choose only a dozen–the number of murals that the Quilt Trail can currently manage. Some classic quilt designs you will see variations of include star flower, poinsettia, dresden circle, puss-in-the-corner, and rising star. But just like the handmade treasures themselves, each mural is unique.
If you stop by 210 Broad St. and happen to meet painters in action, several of them are the quilt owners themselves. Jill Parsons submitted 3 of her grandmothers quilts. From these a particularly challenging geometric orange-and-black Tumbling Blocks pattern was selected to become a mural. “When my grandmother died this past spring the quilt trail was a way to honor her memory and connect with her,” she told me at a recent painting session. Parsons is painting of the mural herself as a tribute to her grandmother.
Downtown Greeneville and downtown Jonesborough are also growing new quilt projects. Downtown Greeneville’s current sites are the Nathaniel Greene Museum (100 W. McKee St.) and the James-Ben Studio and Gallery Art Center (129 N. Main St); Tennessee Quilts (114 Boone St.) and the Visitor’s Center are the sites in downtown Jonesborough. The Appalachian RC&D is working to expand the downtown trails to increase community involvement, bring residents out to enjoy downtowns and patronize downtown businesses, and to increase appreciation of Appalachian arts while providing a means of exercise in a safe environment.
If you would like to grow the Downtown Kingsport Quilt Trail project, contact the Appalachian RC&D. To sponsor a 4×4 mural costs $200. The project is being coordinated by the RC&D (coordinator of the Follow the Quilt Trail) in partnership with Kingsport Community Foundation, the City of Kingsport Public Arts Program, Downtown Kingsport Association, the Kingsport Arts Guild, and the First Frontier Quilters Guild.