Woven Community: An Invitation To Work Shoulder-to-Shoulder
Surface Design News July 28, 2015
During the spring of 2014, I facilitated just such a project. It began with a 6 ft. x 8 ft. frame loom, plenty of linen warp, a generous assortment of donated crochet goods…and lots of people working together!
(CultureWorks in Richmond, VA helped fund my proposal to create a series of free public engagements positioned within the boundaries of the Richmond Arts and Culture District and inclusive of all interested community members.)
Entitled WOVEN Community Project, it was a 3-part community-focused project, involving
1) collecting donated crochet goods from the community
3) welcoming Richmonders to join me in a public place to weave the yarn into a new work of art
By collaborating with the community to complete a unique artwork, I strive to create scenarios that nurture diverse partnerships among both individuals and communities. (On a more personal note, it was also a way to get some distance from my thesis during the final semester of graduate school. It was a way to insert myself into the community and do something less introspective.)
The project included 3 months of leading scheduled events at 7 venues in town, including galleries, a comedy club and Richmond Public Library. It was great because people would come to the events as strangers and leave as friends.
When your hands are working toward a common goal, your mind doesn’t have time to realize that you’re doing something socially awkward, i.e. interacting with people you wouldn’t normally have contact with or speak to.
That’s the beauty of this project; it brought people together in very close proximity – yet removed tension or hesitation.
I find my work teeters between making studio work and feeling an overwhelming need to do something meaningful with others.
Perhaps your intuition moves you to work in a similar way?
It’s a cycle. I usually have several in-progress pieces while planning a larger collaborative piece.
I think my first introduction to socially engaged art was through my friend Renee Garner. She and Lydia Marlon organized america’s 24 hour knit-in in 2003 (Charlotte, NC.) It was 24 hours of non-stop knitting and crocheting for international and local peace. We made several scarves and accepted food donations – all of which was delivered locally to families in transition. Since then my work has become more and more community-oriented.
I completed by MFA at Virginia Commonwealth University. Social practice was not an overt aspect of VCU’s Craft/Material Studies Department, though the nature of the program is very communal – as is textile culture.
Much of the art that inspires me is activated by the audience – interactive, participatory, or collaborative… Not to mention that many of my classmates and professors were making community-activated work.
As an emerging artist, I find that social practice is extremely relevant and necessary. Hopefully it will continue to be a major focus of the VCU program. Artists help to bring about social change. Granting agencies and professional organizations acknowledge this – from local to international initiatives. Surface Design Association is no exception!
SDA’s upcoming MADE/AWARE: Socially Engaged Practices intensive at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts (October 8-11, 2015) will be an amazing incubator for practitioners in our field! SDA’s 2013 interface conference in San Antonio, TX was my first SDA event. I was blown away by the programming, member dedication – and overall energy. This year, I am thrilled to be presenting myself.
I invite you to participate in a new community project called Creating: Conversation & Community at MADE/AWARE in Gatlinburg, TN (USA).
For now, I am keeping the project under wraps. It involves people, handwork and an exchange. Please bring something to be included (fabrics, thread, a garment, a wrapper from your pocket, an old pair of eyeglasses)…anything goes for your contribution! Find complete information on how you can participate here.
I look forward to meeting you in Gatlinburg – and working, side by side, on something very engaging!
Updates on my MADE/AWARE project will be available at www.andreavail.com/friendge.
She earned an MFA from the Craft/Material Studies Program at Virginia Commonwealth University (2014) and a BFA in Visual Arts from University of North Carolina/Charlotte (2003).
Her other recent projects include Gathering Clouds: A Quilting Bee with Andrea Vail at VCU Anderson Gallery, Two Plus One: A 5 Hour Creative Interaction (co-organized with Rachel Emily Simpson) at McColl Center for Art + Innovation and ONE HUNDRED CIRCLES with Elizabeth Traditional Elementary School.
Vail has taught at University of North Carolina/Charlotte, Virginia Commonwealth University and, most recently, at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.
Visit her website at: www.andreavail.com