2015 Jenco Award Recipient – Donna Sue Groves
Donna Sue Groves has spent decades advocating for Appalachian Ohio, particularly its arts and culture. But, it was a promise to her mother and a pride in her region that kickstarted what has grown from a regional movement into a national one, the Quilt Barn Trail. Because of her fierce advocacy for Appalachian Ohio and the region’s own arts and culture, Ms. Groves was recognized with a 2015 Jenco Award from the Jenco Foundation Fund at the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.
As a field agent of the Ohio Arts Council, Ms. Groves was an active advocate for the arts and artists across Appalachian Ohio. She took great pride in the region she called home and knew that arts and appreciation for regional culture were a vital part of others doing the same. When she and her mother moved to Adams County, Ms. Groves saw the unique opportunity to beautify a barn on her property with a quilt square to celebrate her mother’s passion for quilting. She soon realized this one square could lead to many others, bringing visitors to the area to tour the squares, enjoy the region, and invest in the local economy.
“I painted a quilt square on our old tobacco farm to brighten it up. That’s when I thought, ‘what if we paint a bunch of quilt squares and create a driving trail?’” said Donna Sue. “People will come see the trail, buy our quilts, purchase our pictures, eat at our restaurants, and buy gas before going back to their homes. They will spend their money here and we will still have a wonderful place to live.”
From an initial colorful quilt square painted on the old tobacco barn on their Adams County farm, Ms. Groves and a local grassroots committee created an international movement. Today, visitors can find quilt squares not only on barns throughout Appalachian Ohio, but in 45 states and three Canadian provinces. There are more than 7,000 quilt squares painted on barns that highlight this distinctive Appalachian art form and attract visitors to our region.
“What amazes me the most about the way the Quilt Barn Trail has grown is not simply how the Trail has introduced new people to our communities, but, more importantly, how it has brought people within communities together,” said Ms. Groves. “I am humbled by the Jenco Award and being in the company of these other awardees. Each year, this award is proof that we can all make a difference in our communities and that when we work together there is no telling how far our efforts can reach.”