Stitching together has been part of the fiber artist community for centuries. What might those gatherings look like after a pandemic? At our weekly virtual meetings, the Fiber Art Now team explored ideas around how we might support and encourage meaningful gatherings for our community.
This was the impetus for a new grant we’ve called our Gathering Grant. Announced in January, this grant is designed to introduce fiber artists to a wider community and spark conversation about the expanding field of fiber and textile art.
The first award went to Kascha Snavely, owner of The Vestibule Gallery in Seattle, Washington, for their exhibit Reworked. Artists Megan Prince and Lee Davignon, both weavers and advocates of the zero-waste movement, showed work using reclaimed and reworked materials.
More than just “showing,” Prince wanted to engage a community in a participatory project, work reflective of the concept of gathering. How do relationships exist in the world creating art that is invitational and accessible?
“Relationships compel me to create; relationships between people, to belongings, and to the earth. We are all tied together by relationships,” said Prince.
The gallery opening was exciting. A sizeable eclectic group attended. With a large pile of neatly organized donated, discarded hoody strings, Prince launched her work on the gallery floor on that rainy Friday. People quickly joined in, picking up the strings and tying knots that would be part of the installation. The process was simple for anyone to understand, and conversations occurred easily while people were tying knots in the strings.
Over the course of the month-long exhibit, there was always someone at the gallery engaged in tying knots. There were artists from the weaving community meeting each other for the first time in person since the pandemic. Families came on weekends. Teens would show up on Saturdays bringing their ideas of what hoody strings could become. I saw one grandmother with her young grandchildren laughing while she stepped up to contribute her knots to the installation growing on the wall. There were people from the Seattle tech community knotting and sharing current events about the thousands of layoffs happening in their everyday world. Tying knots seemed appropriate and therapeutic.
I even talked to a young couple, probably age 30-something, who were on a first date. They chose knotting on the floor at the gallery as an easy and comfortable way to have a conversation.
Throughout the course of the exhibit artist Megan Prince, “Reworked” the knots into a sculpture. Her performance echoed the frustration and reward of working with others.
The Gathering Grant funds were used to hire a professional videographer, an opportunity for the gallery and the artists to have the exhibition documented.
A delightful outcome: The Vestibule is scheduling “gatherings” throughout each exhibit in 2023, and Gallery salons: a way to support the artists with an opportunity to engage with a greater community. We are excited to see how this grant will unfold in other communities this year. If there was ever a time needed to encourage one another to gather in person for a creative purpose, it seems like now.
Cami Smith is the Fiber Art Now media manager and contributing editor, and a mixed media artist.
Recycled hoodie strings donated by Prairie Underground