Quilt Block Trail established in Copper Country

Art's Corner

Jim Kurtti photo CCCAC Executive Director Cynthia Cote tells Finnish Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi about the Kalevala murals project.

In 2000, four high school students created several panels depicting the “Kalevala,” the classic Finnish epic poem. The project was sponsored by the Copper Country Community Arts Council as a public art project involving youth and funded by grants from the Keweenaw Community Foundation and the Finlandia Foundation Trust.

The students researched, selected the stories and interpreted some of the poems to create four large murals.

This summer for the Juhannus 2017 celebration, the panels were placed onto the Quincy Green in Hancock, with the help of a Placemaking grant from the Western UP Planning and Development Region and support from the city of Hancock and the Finnish American Heritage Center.

The panels will stay in that location through the autumn. This is the first portion of a three-part project funded by the Placemaking grant.

The second part of the grant is for an 8-by-12-foot mural for the side of the Copper Country Community Arts Center (CCCAC) building to replace the one that has been there for several years.

Abigail Tembreull, Copper Country resident and student in the Finlandia University International School of Art and Design, has been commissioned to create the panels for this mural, and she has started preparing the boards for the project. She is working on it in the Youth Gallery at the CCCAC, and you can watch her progress on this project.

The third part of the grant is for the addition of 12 panels to the Copper Country Quilt Block Trail.

The first Quilt Block Trail was created in 2001 in Adams County, Ohio, by Donna Sue Groves. She wanted to place a painted quilt panel on her barn to honor her mother.

When she realized that the project might have broader potential for tourism and community development, she worked with the community to create a “clothesline of quilts,” which started with the Ohio Star.

Her quilt panel was not installed until 2003, but now there are 28 quilt panels shown on the Adams County website, with a note that there are many more. Now there are about several hundred quilt block trails around the country, 28 of them in Michigan.

Although they started out as embellishments for barns, now they adorn many homes as well as businesses and community buildings.

The first quilt block panel in the Copper Country was put up at the Jutila Center in 2013 in time for FinnFest. It is a blue-and-white quilt block called “Storm At Sea.”

It was designed to commemorate the many Finnish immigrants who came by sea to the Copper Country. This was followed by nine more blocks from Calumet to southern Chassell and Portage townships. This summer 12 more quilt blocks panels will be created with support from the Placemaking grant, a collaboration between the CCCAC and Copper Country Quilt Block Trail organizers Anita Campbell and Betty Overocker.

The new panels will be displayed in storefront windows in Hancock throughout the summer, and will then find permanent homes in the Copper Country as an addition to the Copper Country Quilt Block Trail.

So far, the 12 panels have been prepped and primed. In the first week of August, there will be painting sessions at the CCCAC to complete the project.

Contact Cynthia Cote (cynthia@coppercountryarts.com) or call 482-2333 if you are interested in participating in this project. The deadline for quilt block designs is August 1.

We may not have the amazing marble statues and humongous galleries of the large metropolitan areas, but in the Copper Country we have great community art. I’m reminded of this every time I volunteer in the local galleries, and visitors tell me how impressed they are with all the wonderful art to be seen at the colleges, the arts and craft shows, the galleries and on display on the sides of buildings and everywhere in the Upper Peninsula.

We are truly blessed with a colorful heritage and an inspirational landscape. Combine that with the recognition of the value of public art and the eagerness of local people to volunteer their time and talent, and you have the formula for a great little community.