Whether you choose to spend your time indoors or out, this weekend in Racine County offers opportunities to immerse yourself in the colors, textures and history of one of our country's oldest art forms: quilting.

On Saturday morning, Racine County's Quilts on Barns project will show off its latest work beginning with a special reception at the Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau, followed by self-guided driving tours of the 21 county barns now decorated with historic quilt patterns.

Meanwhile, just a few miles east of the bureau at Case High School, quilters from throughout Southeastern Wisconsin and beyond, will celebrate their art at the 2009 Lighthouse Legacies Quilt Show, featuring more than 250 displayed quilts and a variety of special programs for all ages.

It was fate that landed these two separate events on the same weekend here, and together they provide a chance to not only view and learn about a wide range of quilt art, but to experience some of Wisconsin's autumn color as well.

Festivities will kick off at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, with the opening reception for 2009 Quilts on Barns at the RCCVB, 14015 Washington Ave., Sturtevant. Those attending will have a chance to meet the artists who painted the six new quilt patterns which were added to the Quilts on Barns project this summer. In October 2008, Quilts on Barns unveiled its first 15 barns in Racine County, each of which is decorated with a different historic quilt pattern painted on an 8-by-8-foot wooden square.

Saturday morning's reception will also offer the chance to view a documentary film, made by local filmmaker Nicholas Ravnikar, about the Quilts on Barns project. DVDs of the film will be available for sale, at $15 each.

The free, self-guided driving tours of all 21 Quilts on Barns can be done at any time throughout the day and beyond. Free maps of the sites will be available at the RCCVB.

"We are hoping people will come out and make a day of it," said Kathi Wilson, who, along with the Racine Arts Council, created Racine's Quilts on Barns project.

As people make their way from barn to barn, Wilson said she encourages them to take the time to experience some of the other gems that the countryside has to offer, from farmer's markets and pumpkin farms to ice cream shops and local restaurants.

"Last year, people had so much fun," she said. "It is a great way to spend some quality time with your mother, your spouse or your friends."

The new quilt patterns featured on this year's QOB tour are Swing on a Star, Cornucopia, Sawtooth 16 Patch, Four Flags, Vine of Friendship and Twirling Mosaic. Originally, the project's organizers had hoped to add 15 new quilt patterns both this year and next, for a total of 45 Quilts on Barns in Racine County. But, like many other projects and organizations struggling through the country's economic crisis, QOB had difficulty getting funding for its work this year, Wilson explained.

"We are excited to have six new quilted barns this year, and they are beautiful," she said. "People are still very excited about this."

Nature and design

The Lighthouse Legacies Quilt Show, which is presented by Racine's Lighthouse Quilters Guild, will be a two-day quilt extravaganza featuring exhibits, competitions, demonstrations, appraisals, a silent auction, vendors, a craft and gift boutique and concessions. At last count, the show's annual competition had 260 entries - the highest ever at the biennial show, according to Jennifer Janzer, a Guild member. And they include everything from bed and lap quilts to quilted apparel and home accessories, all within this year's theme of "Nature and Design."

One of the highlights of the 2009 show will be a traveling exhibition of "Water Challenge" quilts made by members of the Professional Art Quilters Alliance, a national quilting group based in northern Illinois. These contemporary art quilts - each one no bigger than 18 inches square - depict the quilters' interpretations of water.

Another highlight will feature the work of the Guild's Honored Quilters for 2009, Rhonda Rodero (contemporary art quilts) and Mary Piper (traditional pieced and appliqueed quilts). Both women have had their quilts featured in state and national shows.

There will also be a display of the Guild's "Pillowcases for Troops" project, through which members have produced more than 4,000 pillowcases for soldiers in combat zones. This project, which has been in place for several years, is just one example of the Lighthouse Quilters Guild's charity work. They also create and donate quilted items to Children's Hospital in Milwaukee; Racine's Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization homeless shelter and the Women's Resource Center; children of soldiers who are serving overseas; and more.

"One of the things we pride ourselves in is the charity work we do," Janzer said.

The Guild, which has about 150 members, meets on the last Monday of each month. Its meetings are open to the public and quilters of all ages and skill levels are welcome, Janzer said.

"Members are very willing to mentor new quilters."

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