SIDNEY – “Is this your barn?”
That’s the question Shelby County Historical Society Director Tiilda Phlipot is asking area residents.
The barn in question is the subject of a painting by Cincinnati artist Robert Kroeger and will represent Shelby County in a book, “Historic Barns of Ohio,” to be published by Arcadia Publishing in March. Kroeger, who wrote the book as well as painting the illustrations that record barns in each of Ohio’s 88 counties, will conduct a book-signing and raffle one of his paintings at an event in Sidney, April 24, at 10 a.m. in the Cameo Theatre, 304 S. West Ave.
The event is a partnership project of the historical society, the Senior Center of Sidney and Shelby County and Gateway Arts Council. The partners will also exhibit some artwork by local artists during Kroeger’s appearance.
The barn in Shelby County sits near Interstate 75 just south of Botkins. Kroeger couldn’t give an exact location.
“The white barn can be found near the Gulf gas station near the Botkins exit. After I stopped at the gas station, I drove down that road, southbound … When I returned towards the station, I saw the white barn,” he said in an email.
The artist did take some liberties in composing the painting.
“The one advantage a painter has over a photographer is that he can move things around,” Kroeger said by phone recently. “In Shelby County, I put green foliage in the trees even though there was snow when I was there, and corn rows for some color. I want it to be somewhat representational so the owner recognizes the barn.”
Kroeger, a retired dentist, has made a second career of painting pictures of barns, the older and more dilapidated, the better, he said. He calls his project his “humble attempt to preserve history.” Modern farm machinery doesn’t fit in the old barns, so they are left to deteriorate, he added. He has traveled throughout Ohio and beyond to record through his artwork and essays a quickly disappearing way of life on the farm.
Often, he is able to talk with a barn’s owner and learn its history, which he puts into essays that accompany the paintings. But that wasn’t the case with the barn near Botkins.
“Let me tell you about what kind of broke my heart,” he said. “I would see a barn on the right side of the road south of the Botkins exit. Two years later, I drove back along the road. The barn was gone.”
So he stopped to take photos of a different barn, the barn he eventually painted. But it was an extremely cold day when he stopped to take the photos.
“Wind chills in the single digits,” he said. So he didn’t try to find an owner.
Because he didn’t know the structure’s history, Kroeger’s essay in “Historic Barns of Ohio” recounts some Botkins village history instead.
Phlipot would like to exhibit a placard with information from the barn’s owner, if the owner can be identified.
“We would like to hear from anyone who recognizes this barn and can provide us with some history about it or put us in touch with owner,” she said. To contact Phlipot, call 937-498-1653 or email [email protected]