CHELSEA — Folklore states that barn quilts were used in the underground railroad to convey messages. These "quilts," painted on plywood squares to resemble the blocks of a sewn quilt, are now being used in Chelsea to communicate a different message. The Barn Quilt Project was conducted in preparation for the Chelsea Art Collective Arts Festival on Aug. 25. Barn quilts have undergone some changes since their days of delivering hidden messages. Now painted geometric designs often represent something personal to the painter. The designs are then mounted on the side of a barn or house. Designs range from symbolic renderings of the names of farms or houses, to symbols that carry personal weight or family history. Carrie Caouette-DeLallo, the founder of the Chelsea Art Collective, started the project earlier this spring with help from the First Branch Community Collaborative and the Arts Collective to help revitalize the downtown community after Chelsea had fallen on hard times, losing two of the local stores and its only gas pumps. "How can we create a project that's really inclusive?" DeLallo said. "We wanted to give people a chance to express themselves." The Arts Collective offered to donate materials for barn quilts to help those who wouldn't otherwise be able to participate. A goal was set to create 50 different barn quilts with help from the Chelsea community. That goal was quickly reached, with community members and organizations like the public school, SafeArt, and the Orange County Public Child Center all getting involved with the Arts Collective to participate. "In general, this is the kind of energy that our communities need," said Emily Marshia, a co-executive director of the Orange County Parent Child Center. The center is painting a sun design barn quilt with help from their employees and community members who use their services. "Everything we do is for the community," said Marshia. "And having all-hands-on-deck to help complete this project makes this true." SafeArt, an organization that uses art as a method of boosting mental and general health, is having six women from its Healing Arts for Women group paint a barn quilt. Aligning with the goals of the group, SafeArt is having each of the women design their own symbol of good health. "It's a message about healing," said Yasmeen Hossain, SafeArt's interim executive director. "For the individual and the community." With quilts located throughout Chelsea's downtown and scattered among back roads as well, the Arts Collective is planning to create a trail map in the future to help people find their way around. The barn quilts will be on display at the time of the arts festival. However, no more will be made that are included in the project. To learn more about the project, visit chelseavt-arts.com.

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