Nora McGinnis "Growth Pattern X" (detail)

Kansas & Missouri Collaborative Meet-Up in Kansas City by Mary Elmusa

I recently received a Small Event Grant from SDA for this collaborative Kansas and Missouri meetup at the Kansas City Art Institute (co-sponsored by Missouri Fiber Artists) this past February. KCAI Fiber students were involved under direction of Fiber Chair Pauline Verbeek. We were exposed to a prominent BFA Fiber program plus a presentation and dialogue with two recent graduates of the program, Paulina Otero and Eva Llarena. Students also gave demonstrations on the innovative fiber techniques they’re experimenting with. Participants were also able to tour student studio spaces and converse with students individually about their work and experiences. 

KCAI Fiber Building.

Planning for the event began with Pauline Verbeek (KCAI Professor and Fiber Department Chair), along with Kim Eichler-Messmer (Professor) and Becky Stevens (MoFA Vice-President) all SDA members as well. 

An idea for a meeting was formed that included students, SDA members from Kansas and Missouri, MoFA members  and guests. Under consideration was how these area fiber interest groups could mentor and support emerging artists, designers and students, while supporting interests of current members by allowing members exposure to more recent developments, innovations and directions in fiber and textiles. 

The meeting began with Pauline welcoming over 50 attendees to the Fiber Department. She spoke of the Art Institute’s long held relationship with SDA, some history of the organization, and her own personal history with SDA involvement, including career benefits and organizing past SDA conferences in Kansas City. Pauline introduced Jason Pollen, who had served as past KCAI Fiber Chair and SDA President for many years. 

Pauline Verbeek presenting at KCAI SDA MoFA meetup, 2023.

I spoke to the group of membership benefits; volunteer positions and some of the valuable contributions members of all experience levels could give. MoFA President, K.E. Griffin, spoke of the organization, outlining some of the various activities of the group, collaborative challenges and exhibition opportunities, as well as membership information. MoFA also contributed to the meeting by offering three MoFA memberships to students and providing refreshments, and helping with mailing costs for the SDA Swatch Collection.

Becky Stevens (left) and K.E. Griffin (right) at KCAI SDA MoFA meetup, 2023.

Next up were presentations by two recent KCAI Fiber grads, Paulina Otero and Eva Llarena, both Kansas City-based artists. Both are actively engaged in continuing their thesis work and share a love of the medium of tufting. Each one gave a presentation about their work and showed examples. Eva is working on a large-scale rug as part of a short residency in the Fiber department and also gave a demo.

Tufting demo by Eva Llarena at KCAI SDA MoFA meetup, 2023.

Eva Llarena is a multimedia artist that uses bright and colorful materials when tufting, bookmaking, painting, and quilting to spark curiosity, explore material possibilities, and create room for play for herself and her audience. She has graduated with a double major in Fiber and Art History from KCAI. She has exhibited her work in numerous group shows. 

Eva Llarena, Tuftbench, 2022. Tufted acrylic yarn with wood, 36 x 24 x 12 inches. Photo by the artist.

Recent graduate, Paulina Otero focuses on making jewelry and tufted wall hangings that are abstract representations of her experiences in her home country, Mexico. She references home by using bold colors, organic forms and textures inspired by architecture, nature, and traditional textiles. Paulina has exhibited her work in places like the Ekru Project, Wonder Gallery, Charlotte Street Foundation, The Yeiser Art Center, The Appalachian Center of Craft and many others. Most recently, Paulina moved into a new studio space, attended a metals workshop at Penland School of Craft and did her first Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago.

Paulina Otero, Mbumba Ostrea, 2022. Tufted wool and polyester yarn, 38 x 36 inches. Photo: Carlos Lima.

Following the presentations and discussions, members and guests were invited to watch demonstrations on tufting on a large scale frame, and to view the working of a Jacquard computerized loom as well as a computerized Dobby loom by Annalee Hanson, a junior in Fiber. Since it was a large gathering, we broke into separate groups, with some watching the demos and others engaging with students in their studio spaces. An interesting junior level display of a 30-day project taught at KCAI by Kim Eichler-Messmer was on display for us to view. Others toured the various studio spaces, and the SDA Swatch collection was also available for perusing. 

Annalee Hanson weaving demonstration at KCAI SDA MoFA meetup, 2023.

Toward the end of the meeting, we gathered together for closing remarks by Pauline. As a final activity, meeting participants cast votes for winners of the “30-day Challenge” on display by students. It’s important that members of all ages and levels could interact and network with each other in a pleasant social and educational setting. The gathering provided the next generation of fiber artists an opportunity to see and interact with a larger community of fiber artists and become aware of some of the many benefits of membership. 

KCAI SDA MoFA meetup, 2023.

–Mary Elmusa is a retired art educator and is a past regional rep for SDA. She is also a MoFA member and has been involved in design and planning of several collaborative group organization projects She is a practicing artist in Leawood, Kansas. Her quilted artworks and stitched prints may be viewed at her website.

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