Heart of Louisiana: Quilt Trail

A grassroots art project is taking quilts from the bedroom and turning them into painted displays on homes and businesses.
Published: Nov. 20, 2022 at 8:20 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2022 at 11:35 PM CST

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A grassroots art project is taking quilts from the bedroom and turning them into painted displays on homes and businesses. The Louisiana Quilt Trail got its start in the city of Ponchatoula.

When you drive around Tangipahoa Parish, keep an eye out for these square, colorful works of art. You find them on homes and businesses like this one in a florist shop.

“She picked the ones that sell the best, like the rosebuds, and she always puts the butterflies in them,” said Kim Zabbia.

Kim Zabbia is an art teacher, the wife of Ponchatoula’s mayor, and a huge promoter of the area’s quilt trail.

“It’s the fastest-growing grassroots art movement in the country, said Zabbia.

Zabbia tells me you can find a quilt trail in every state in the country, the Louisiana trail started a decade ago.

“It’s kind of like going to every state to the highest peak of that state, it’s a wonderful tourist attraction,” said Zabbia.

So when people talk about a Quilt Trail, they’re not actually driving around and seeing a quilt hanging in somebody’s yard, it’s a painted representation of a quilt.

“The thing to remember is that what the Quilt Trail has done is that it has brought that intimate art of quilting out from the bedrooms and the living rooms and brought it out to the public,” Zabbia said.

A quilt block promotes the local strawberry festival and its royalty at the tourist commission. At city hall, you see the headlight of a train, more strawberries, and a flag on this downtown building. The old architecture is showcased in the quilt block. You find personal stories in these paintings, like this one outside Jim Hulsey’s house.

“I have cows. so you see in the corners the cattle heads, okay. My wife has cats, you see the cat there and there. So why do you do this? Why do I do this? Yeah, it’s just interesting. It just kind of captures us all in one spot, Jim Husley said.

Businesses cannot use their logo. This podiatry clinic has pairs of feet in the shape of a sweet-smelling flower. All of the region’s tourist centers hand out maps to the Quilt Trail.

“:But it has the whole five parish region. But look, this is Ponchatoula all by itself, and it has 54 blocks there. See Hammond has 20. Here’s Amite and Kentwood,” Zabbia said.

There are a few real quilters who participate, like Yvonne Felder, who says she started sewing as a child but didn’t start quilting until she got married in the 1950s.

“If you really enjoy doing it, it’s something that is just sort of fun, and I’ve always enjoyed sewing, and the quilts just sort of came naturally,” Yvonne Felder said.

Her home is full of real quilts, but she also has a painted block on the outside with colored diamonds that represent each of her children. It’s a personal, colorful and fascinating form of expression where people tell you who they are and invite you to take a look.

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