- Associated Press - Saturday, May 23, 2015

SCANDIA, Minn. (AP) - Olivia Nienaber dipped a paintbrush into a can of Sherwin Williams’ Calypso blue, wiped off a few excess drips and carefully painted a straight, smooth line onto a white sheet of plywood.

Then she did it again — six more times.

When you are masterminding a Barn Quilt Trail for northern Washington County, it helps to be a stickler for details.

Olivia, a 12-year-old from Scandia, has spent the past several weeks soliciting donations, picking out paint colors, buying wood and finding volunteers. She plans to install seven painted quilts on barns along the bike trail running through Scandia, Marine on St. Croix and May Township.

Five of the locations are set. The first quilt, an extra-large Log Cabin pattern, will be installed Wednesday afternoon on the barn at the Gammelgarden Museum in Scandia.

“I made my first quilt when I was 6,” said Olivia, a home-schooled sixth-grader. “It’s black and red and has dogs on it.”

Barn quilts are typically 8-by-8-feet or 4-by-4-feet wooden squares painted to resemble quilt blocks and positioned at the front of a barn.

When Olivia’s mother, Ann Rinkenberger, showed her a picture of a barn quilt last year, it didn’t take long for Olivia to decide to construct one for her family’s barn.

“When she first showed me the picture, I thought it was an actual quilt made out of fabric, but then I realized it was painted on,” said Olivia, who is active in 4-H.

“I thought it would be fun to do them here.”

For quilt-pattern ideas, she turned to one of her favorite picture books — “The Quiltmaker’s Gift” by Jeff Brumbeau — and chose the designs Birds in the Air, Peace and Plenty, Bear Paw, Around the Corner and Friendship Star.

“(The book is) about this quiltmaker who makes quilts for poor people,” Olivia said. “A lot of people want to buy them, but she won’t sell them to them. As you can see, she’s giving them to those who need it. “

The book’s message was appealing, and so were the patterns, she said.

“Olivia and her mom settled on simple designs featuring geometric shapes that will be easy to paint and to enjoy from a distance. One of Olivia’s favorites is the Bear Paw, which she plans to paint Lemon Twist yellow, African Violet purple, Center Stage green and Candid blue.

Each barn quilt will cost about $1,000. Olivia has been contacting city and town officials, local service groups and Gammelgarden officials to raise funds. Last week, she received $500 from the Scandia-Marine Lions Club. In April, she got a $500 grant from Disney’s Friends for Change Youth program through Youth Service America.

The Barn Quilt Trail is teaching Olivia “how to take a project from its inception to completion and how to connect with the resources,” Rinkenberger said.

“It’s been a great project for leadership building,” she said. “She is building confidence in speaking with adults and other children and seeing a project going from the start to the end and not giving up if things don’t go the way that you envision them. Those are important life skills that you can gain from doing something like this, while also benefiting the community.”

Lynne Moratzka, director of the Gammelgarden Museum, said the project makes use of existing community resources. “The barns and the bike trail — it ties them together,” she said.

Moratzka requested the Log Cabin pattern at Gammelgarden because the museum owns a Log Cabin quilt that’s more than 100 years old. She even picked out the blue-and-yellow color scheme to match the interior of the museum. It will be framed with Falun red, the color of the exterior of the museum’s buildings.

The museum had a tight deadline for the quilt’s installation; its annual “Immigrant for a Day” event, which attracts hundreds of visitors, is 1-4 p.m. Sunday.

The project has already become a tourist attraction for the museum.

“People driving by have seen them out painting outside on the grass, and they will stop and say, ‘What the heck is going on?’ ” Moratzka said.

Once all of the barn quilts are in place, Olivia said, she hopes senior citizens from local nursing homes will tour the sites by bus and stop at Gammelgarden for lunch and a presentation about each of them. She is looking for volunteer quilters to sew miniature versions of the barn quilts to have on hand at the museum.

As soon as Scandia City Council member Dan Lee heard about the project, he volunteered — and offered his barn for a quilt, too.

“It was such a fantastic idea,” he said. “How could you say ‘no’ to something that is so nice? I told them to pick out what they wanted to do and what they thought would look good on the trail, and we’ll put it up.”

Lee stopped at Gammelgarden last week to check out the Log Cabin quilt and volunteered to return to help with Wednesday’s installation.

He said the Barn Quilt Trail could help “put Scandia on the map.”

“I really think it’s going to promotes tourism,” he said. “It’s colorful and beautiful. (Olivia) grabbed onto this idea and found the perfect application with a town that is enthusiastic about its history and residents who care about the town. It just fits everybody’s idea of how they love Scandia.”


Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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