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It's art, not advertising, say 'barn quilters'

Members of a local quilting group want to install works of public art throughout the county for free. But a Washington County sign ordinance is currently preventing them from doing so. by: COURTESY PHOTOS: JEAN LASSWELL - Westside Quilters Guild members are trying to organize a Quilt Barn Trail in Washington County, which would place public art on local barns like these two photographed in Tillamook County. They will need an ordinance change first, however.

Members of the Westside Quilters Guild want to create the “Washington County Quilt Barn Trail,” mounting decorative wooden murals emulating quilt patterns on historic barns along scenic roads and bikeways and other established tourist routes, such as those for wineries and lavender farms.

The quilt blocks increase aesthetic values in the county; honor the area’s agricultural heritage; create partnerships between artists and groups; and — according to an Ohio Arts Council study and unofficial chats with Tillamook County barn quilt organizers — they boost tourism as well, according to organizers.

The problem?

The Washington County’s broad sign ordinance deems the approximately 8-by-8 wooden blocks as signs, even though they would be on private property and include no words, logos, pictures or names — only quilt patterns.

Ordinance 106-193 defines a sign as a “name, identification, description, display or illustration, which is affixed to, painted or represented directly or indirectly upon a building, or other outdoor surface which directs attention to an object, product, place, activity, person, institution, organization or business ...”

Therefore, the blocks would be subjected to the sign permitting process and $100 fee for each one.

Members of the guild are hoping to work with Washington County Commissioners for either an exception or an amendment.

“I think the county would only benefit from the project,” said Julie Mason, guild president and project initiator. “I think if we get this sign ordinance issue worked out, we can do it.”

The project would be funded by the Westside Quilters Guild, and the Cultural Coalition of Washington County has also awarded the group a grant.

The Washington County Visitors Association is an established supporter of the project.

Guild members want to start by putting up approximately a dozen blocks throughout the county and eventually provide quilt barn trail maps. They’d like to include 4-H members, Girls Scouts and Boy Scouts, grange halls, arts and culture groups and any other individual or group who wants to join in.

Those who want to show their support for the Quilt Barn Trail can send a letter to the Washington County Commissioners, 155 N. First Ave., MS 21, Hillsboro, OR 97124. The issue will come before the commissioners in March. Interested parties can help spread the word of the project and join the quilt barn committee.

Call 503-433-4057 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.




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