Garrettsville – Anyone who witnessed the Buckeye Block fire of 2014 cannot shake the images of billowing black smoke, raging flames and catastrophic collapse from their mind’s eye. One Garrettsville artist translated those searing images into a quilt created from layered digital photographs of that historic moment. Now, “Mourning After” by Karen Hinkle is on display at the Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn, New York.

As part of the “Quilts=Art=Quilts 2017” exhibit, it will remain on display from October 28, 2017-January 7, 2018. “Mourning After” — which took form as a five-by-seven-foot, digitally-printed, three-layer machine quilted work featuring colored threads and unique fiber technique — is one of 326 entries that were entered for consideration to the international show. It endures as one of 74 entries by 65 artists accepted for display in the juried exhibition, under the subject, “No one wants this to happen.” Free-hanging in front of the quilt is a billowing panel of organdy, reminiscent of the angry plume of smoke that overtook Hinkle’s view as she approached Garrettsville from south of town on March 22, 2014.

That day remains as a scar in collective memory, when the Great Garrettsville Fire ripped through the Buckeye Block on Main Street, taking with it 14 businesses, a once-familiar skyline, and 160 years of history. More than three years later, all that occupies that space now is a grassy lawn. While a replacement building has been drawn up, plans remain on hold as funding is slow to trickle in for builder Michael Maschek to break ground.

Formerly a Kent resident with a background in special education and an artist mentor at Kent State University, Hinkle says, “I’ve only been here in Garrettsville for 14 years, but I was so moved by the total loss experienced by the store owners and the community on that day. That block used to be bustling with business, especially at my favorite fabric shop.”
Hinkle started working on her quilt concept in the fall following the fire, and completed it within a year. She received a Juror’s Award for her work in a show held at The Gallery at Lakeland Community College in May 2016. The quilt has also appeared in a Canton Art Museum show.

The artist wants her quilt to encourage people to “come closer, pause and study it.” For locals, Hinkle wants her art to encourage them to take a step closer to their memories, pause to value them, then take action toward the rebuilding effort. More than raising funds, Hinkle wants the community to gather together and demand a clearer pathway toward a better future, with answers for questions around the vision and step-by-step plans to make it a reality. While art may be a window to the past, it can also be a stepping stone toward the future.

In order to view “Mourning After” on display, the Scheinfurth Art Center is open Tuesday through Saturdays from 10am to 5 pm; and Sundays 1pm to 5pm, at 205 Genesee Street, Auburn, New York.