Sandy became my first barn scout, taking me on a whirlwind tour that day, followed by others, enabling me to take photos, make sketches, and get wood from barns to frame the paintings. Her help not only saved me time (she knew exactly where the barns were) but also helped me avoid facing a rifle. OK, it only happened once – when I hunted for barns in another county and, aside from the first few minutes, it was a good experience – once I explained my Ohio Barn Project to the gentleman (who told me he was shooting water moccasins in his pond and got four with only six shots).
Sandy’s help, as the article in Highland County’s Times Gazette newspaper explained (click for link), culminated in me doing oil paintings of 11 barns and writing essays about them, which raised $1700 for the county 4-H. Almost all of the paintings were framed in wood from the barn in the painting, which made them more memorable – especially since two of the barns have already been dismantled.
So, as I continue my journey to Ohio’s many counties – in search of old barns and their stories – I’m wondering if I’ll find others like Sandy who can take me on barn tours, introduce me to the owners, help me get barn wood, and fill me in on the history of the barns.
As I’ve mentioned earlier on this site, I hope to accumulate 50-75 old barns with fascinating stories and turn the project into a book, whose royalties will go to the 4-H. The barns I’m interested are those built in the 1800s up to about 1930, those not covered by metal siding and preferably rustic looking – missing boards, sagging roof, weathered paint. The more historic, the better.
In 1900 there were 225,000 farms in Ohio, each of which presumably had at least one barn. Now the number of Ohio farms has dropped below 80,000 and, with that drop, the number of barns has also fallen. One person estimated that there are less than 30,000 barns left in Ohio. I want to grab these old guys, hug them, and put them on canvas before they’re gone, which, in many cases, may be soon.
So, if this Ohio Barn Project is going to work, I need a Sandy in every county, a person I call a “barn scout,” someone passionate about old barns, familiar with the barn owners, and blessed with enough spare time to organize a barn tour of a dozen or so barns. This person might be retired or flexible enough to do considerable research – get barn owner’s names, phone numbers, barn stories, etc.
My offer still holds: if the barn owner will provide wood from the barn, I’ll do a complimentary study painting for him or her and, if there’s enough wood, I’ll frame both the study and the master painting. If the barn’s story is exceptional, I’ll earmark it for the book.
If you happen to read this and if you think your county 4-H could use funds, please contact the director and let him or her know that I’ll be willing to enter my paintings in a 4-H event. The Highland County program was their annual dinner-auction fundraiser and a professional auctioneer donated his services. He was good, believe me.
So, by chance, if you know someone in your county who's passionate about old barns and has time to help me in this Ohio Barn Project, please connect us. They can contact me via the contact form on this site. I need more Sandys!