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Last weekend, members of the Monroe County cultural community gathered in Woodsfield to celebrate completion of “Patchwork Jewels of Monroe County,” the latest driving tour addition to The New Ohio Guide. The event was hosted by the Monroe Arts Council and included displays of quilt barn memorabilia. A mini-quilt show featured several stunning sampler quilts that featured the original 20 quilt blocks chosen for the barn trail. Guests included barn owners, quiltmakers, and other civic leaders.Inaugural Rour 2

Presentations during the morning included comments by the trail’s original organizers and from Scott Hagan who shared his experiences painting the state’s Bicentennial Barns as well as the Monroe County Quilt Barns. Pat Williamsen, Ohio Humanities executive director and Karen Schaefer, audio producer of the “Patchwork Jewels” driving tour, were on hand to share the group’s enthusiasm.

In introducing the tour at the event, county commission Mick Schumacher commented that it was “like a Ken Burns documentary, without the pictures.”

“Patchwork Jewels of Monroe County” is the 13th driving tour recorded by Ohio Humanities; in 2015, Ohio Humanities released “A Clothesline of Quilts: Adams County” as Tour 12. Under a grant from the Ohio Arts Council, Ohio Humanities captured the story of the national Quilt Barn Trail movement, which began in Adams County in 2001. To date, more than 30 Ohio counties and 40 states include Quilt Barn Trails as options forInaugerual Tour 1 travel itineraries.

To complete the kick-off celebration, everyone boarded a bus to hear portions of the tour while viewing featured barns. Stops included the Courthouse Square Barn just outside Woodsfield, the Stone Barn on the northern edge of Monroe County and the Ohio Valley River Museum in Clarington.

Thanks to everyone in Monroe County who lent their stories to the tour!



2015 Creative Ohio_Banner


Tom Borrup, Creative Community Builders, joins Creative Ohio 2015 as the Keynote speaker.  Register today to hear this visionary leader and learn how Ohio communities can be transformed with creative thinking and thoughtful planning.  Register at Creative Ohio 2015.

Tom Borrup is a leader and innovator in creative community building and creative placemaking – leveraging cultural and other assets to advance economic, social, civic, and physical regeneration of place-based communities. He consults with cities, foundations, and nonprofits across the U.S. to integrate arts, economic development, urban planning and design, civic engagement, and animation of public space.

His 2006 book, The Creative Community Builders’ Handbook, remains the leading text in the field. It profiles communities that have transformed their economic, social, and physical infrastructures through the arts and humanities. As Executive Director of Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis from 1980 until 2002, Tom helped transform a diverse urban neighborhood while building a nationally recognized multidisciplinary, cross-cultural organization. He has served as a member of many nonprofit boards and funding panels for public and private agencies, and was a trustee of the Jerome Foundation in Saint Paul from 1994 to 2003. With the National Endowment for the Arts, Tom served on a variety of funding and policy panels over 25 years in the media arts, visual arts, presenting, design, and advancement program categories.

Tom holds an M.A. in Communications and Public Policy from Goddard College and was a 2001-2002 Fellow in the Knight Program in Community Building at the University of Miami School of Architecture. Currently, he is completing a Ph.D. on Leadership and Change at Antioch University researching the role of social and organizational networks in the planning and management of cultural districts.  He teaches Creative Placemaking for Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture’s Urban and Regional Planning Graduate Program.

Don’t miss this chance — Register today!   Creative Ohio 2015

Production is underway on two more driving tours for the New Ohio Guide – this time featuring Quilt Barns.

Just about any place you travel in the US, you’ll see quilt designs decorating the sides of barns and other buildings.  These bits of folk art are part of a national ‘clothesline” of quilt barn trails created by local quilt and arts groups. But did you know that the first quilt barns were created here in Ohio?

Back in November, producer Sandra Sleight Brennan drove the route through Adams County to get a feel for the landscape with an eye toward what to include on the tour.  I tagged along to take pictures.  As a sometime quilter, and long aware of the work Donna Sue Collins had done to create this national phenomenon, I marveled at the splashes of color dotting the late autumn landscape.  Needless to say, I’m excited about these new tours and wanted to share some of the photos I shot that day.


Here’s where the national trail starts, with the first quilt square dedicated to Maxine Groves.  The Snail’s Trail is a spunky pattern that dates from the 1920s when it was usually fashioned using just one color on a white background.  The choice of colors here, purple and green, help the design pop forward from the side of this old tobacco barn.


At the intersection of Rt. 247 and Germany Hill Road, the Edgington barn sits back from the road, offering a long vista of an Ohio farm.

Nearby, the Quilting Barn chose three squares to decorate the side of their shop. Each square represents the shop owner’s daughters.  The Quilting Barn offers machine quilting services for those eager to get their projects finished.



Donna Sue Groves, founder of the Quilt Barn trails, likes to say “there are no quilt-barn police” when she’s asked if quilt squares can only be placed on barns.  Lucky for us, as the Ruehl’s  decided to mount their quilt square in a specially designed rock wall.  They chose a log cabin design with a pineapple stencil set in the center to symbolize a welcome to visitors.




Sandra shooting across the fields to capture an image of a barn near the intersection of Routes 247 and 52.  Sandra served as the editor-in-chief of the New Ohio Guide, as well as producer for several of the tours in our first collection.


We expect this first tour along the Adams County Quilt Barn Trail will be completed in mid-May.  You’ll be able to download it from – just in time for a jaunt through the greening countryside!





Checked an item off the research and travel bucket lists this past weekend by taking a ride as a Memorial Day tribute to my father who served as a bombardier in the Army Air Force from 1942 to 1946.

Trying to interpret Dad’s war-time photographs by reconstructing his Air Force career, I’ve often thought I needed to fly as he did – strapped in the belly of a bomber, seated just behind the bomb bay.

A few of the old war birds are being flown as living history exhibits, so I began watching for an opportunity to fly in a B-17. This past weekend, the Experimental Aviation Association brought one to the OSU Airport.
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My flight provided a fleeting glimpse of Dad’s bomb runs over France and Germany. On average, a typical mission lasted 9 hours or more, from take off to bomb drop and return to base in England or Belgium. Our flight lasted about an hour, with less than 40 minutes in the air circling downtown Columbus. As tourists, flying at 1,500 feet altitude, we experienced the exhilaration, but not the freezing temperatures or turbulence of high altitude flying. There was no enemy trying to shoot us down.

Distinct contrasts of peril and exuberance are evident in Dad’s photographs. And much destruction — dozens of images record the grandeur of European cities ruined by America’s strategic bombing policy. In The Wild Blue, Stephen Ambrose revealed that after VE-Day, the Army encouraged flight crews to view the results of the war effort, by visiting the cities they had bombed. This seemingly perverse exercise in disaster tourism helps explain pictures that show Dad’s buddies posed amid the rubble of Dresden and Stuttgart.

My little sojourn into the wild blue yonder has sparked some understanding of Dad’s at having served in the Army Air Force, and his determination to visually preserve the first big trip of his adult life. I carried one of his AAF portraits in my camera bag – to honor his service and to share the ride with him. However brief, it was quite a journey.

Recently, the News York Times ran a series of articles about Donna’s Diner in Elyria, hard hit by the recession, yet staying open to take care of its regulars. Check out the story at

Now, read Connie Schultz’s blog article. The struggle to keep the business open is by no means over, but Donna’s Diner may have turned the corner!

I have to confess that I love cemeteries. Doesn’t matter where they are – Spring Grove in Cincinnati with its majestic mausoleums or a tiny plot tucked next to a country church – I’ll slam on the brakes to spend an hour walking among tombstones. Anytime is a good time to visit a cemetery, as historian Shirley Wajda points out in this post.

A community’s local history isn’t necessarily recorded in ink or collected by a museum. The WPA Writers’ Project of Ohio understood this when they created The Ohio Guide. The writers sought stories to add to what Harlan Hatcher, the Project’s director, called “the usual data about the State.” The writers talked with “venerable citizens who know things not written in the histories,” and they traveled “the highways and by-roads through towns, villages, and farmlands, to report what Ohio is like at this moment and to tell the story of how it came to be.”

The writers found that the venerable citizens often pointed them to the local cemetery. Other workers in the Writer’s Project were recording the information on every gravestone in many of the state’s cemeteries. All history, they discovered, was like all politics: local. A visit to a community’s cemetery was like walking into history. Twenty-one cemeteries are listed in The Ohio Guide.

Cemetery tourism at the beginning of the 21st century is increasingly popular. Check any newspaper in October, and you’ll find tours of historic cemeteries sponsored by local heritage organizations. Some of these feature local tragedies as “ghost” or “haunted” walks, but many more are based on a more dignified exploration of a community’s past.

For many small, volunteer historical societies in Ohio, the local cemetery is the primary—and sometimes the only—historic artifact with which to engage the public in the past. Lacking any collections and a permanent home, the Vienna Historical Society, for example, began in 2008 to document the historic section of the Township’s cemetery. In 2010, the Society began offering cemetery walks dedicated to an annual theme. Preservation days bring together community members and students to clean gravestones, and fundraising has resulted in the professional restoration of several important gravestones. All this focus on community history has increased residents’ shared sense of place and, as the information is shared via the Society’s website, others have visited the cemetery.

A community’s “story” may be best told in stone. And perhaps it’s better to use the plural here, for there are many stories in a cemetery’s gravestones. Of course, biographies of local leaders, whether famous or infamous, are easily discovered. Gravestone art and symbolism tells us much of local carvers, sculptors, and masons, the social status of the interred, and fit into larger movements in social and cultural history. The lives of women and children, of the poor and marginalized, are memorialized in cemeteries when they aren’t visible in the historical record. Veterans’ graves relate a given community to larger national and international conflicts. Even the vegetation tells us of funerary practices and pilgrimages of earlier generations. Vienna’s cemetery is crisscrossed in spring with wild strawberry blossoms, forget-me-nots, and daffodils. Here and there are flowering bushes that have burst the ceramic pots that once held them, the potsherds barely beneath the earth’s surface, surviving alongside the markers.

Shirley Wajda, Ph.D, is an independent historian living in the Connecticut Western Reserve. She is the creator of Viennapedia (, a wiki devoted to her hometown of Vienna, Ohio. She likes cemeteries, too, which makes her a ideal travel companion!

Autumn is my favorite time to travel. With the lazy days of summer behind us and school back in session, daydreaming about a quick getaway becomes an alluring pastime.

Dream no more! Check out for The New Ohio Guide driving tours. With eleven audio tours to choose from, you’ll find fascinating heritage itineraries on a wide variety of themes that will introduce you to places in Ohio you never imagined.
Drive through Cleveland’s ethnic neighborhoods, or along the Maumee River to visit War of 1812 sites. Or start in the Dayton area for a tour that takes you from the Wright Brothers bicycle shop to Neil Armstrong’s moon lander in Wapakoneta.

Each audio tour introduces you to heritage experts and is narrated by an individual intimately familiar with the route. The tours are downloadable to disk or mobile devise, and most come with turn-by-turn directions, listed on the website.

This Autumn, see Ohio first.

Celebrate Memorial Day weekend by taking a trip to significant Ohio military sites. Check out! The New Ohio Guide offers a drive along Lake Erie (Tour 8) that includes a visit to Johnson’s Island on Lake Erie, site of a Civil War prison camp. The tour, which starts in Sandusky and ends in Archbold, includes stops at several historic and scenic attractions, with a little viviculture thrown in to whet your whistle. Or choose Tour 6 for a drive through the Maumee Valley to visit sites associated with the War of 1812, including Fort Meigs in Perrysburg where re-enactors recreate historic battles that helped secure America’s hold in the Old Northwest. Downloads of the tours are free, so check out

An interesting item just crossed my desk:
Muskingum County Community Foundation director David Mitzel recently stated “You have to know where you’re going to get there.” So to guide visitors to the thriving artist community in downtown Zanesville, the foundation helped the Zanesville Downtown Association produce a map featuring shops, galleries, and studios. Quoted on, David said the map will help art lovers find the hidden gems around town. Copies of the map are available at locations listed here: http://

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