Festival will get to the very fiber of art

Original Article @ Philly.com
March 02, 2012
By A.M. Weaver
For The Inquirer

Amy Orr photographed by Akira Suwa
Amy Orr photographed by Akira Suwa

Amy Orr, beaming a kilowatt smile, almost jumps from her chair when she talks about FiberPhiladelphia 2012, the citywide celebration of textile and fiber art she has spent the last two years organizing with Bruce D. Hoffman.

Orr is a fiber artist, Moore College faculty member, and the biennial event’s director; Hoffman, an independent curator, was part of the Snyderman-Works Gallery’s groundbreaking 1998 fiber exhibition, which sparked what has become an event of international scope, stretching from Friday’s opening till the end of April.

For this sixth iteration, Orr says, “we decided not to engage in the ongoing debate about what constitutes fiber art. . . . People don’t want to define themselves as fiber artists, just artists. A call was placed for excellent artwork that made reference to textiles and fiber art – and the results were outstanding.”

FiberPhiladelphia 2012 features several major juried shows. More than 500 artists applied, from all over the world, and 67 were chosen to exhibit at the Icebox Project Space in the Crane Building and at subsequent juried shows at the Wayne Art Center and the Gallery at City Hall.

Partnering with the nonprofit membership organization InLiquid, participating venues – among them the Art Alliance, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Arthur Ross Gallery, and the Wexler Gallery – were cultivated early on. Orr emphasizes that subsequent participation was highly democratic, requiring only a $100 registration fee. After that, each of the scores of venues could do its own thing with the fiber theme.

With the funds collected on an interactive website, a gallery guide and free lectures were organized. Volunteers essentially run the festival, which speaks to the ability of the organizers to mobilize their constituents.

And to attract related events: A joint conference of Studio Art Quilt Associates and the Surface Design Association will be held March 30 to April 1 in Conshohocken, and will feature tours of the festival’s highlights.

Why is all this happening in Philadelphia? Orr is ready with the answer, noting that it is a “city with Amish quilts and immigrants with rich traditions in the fiber arts.”

“Also of record was the manufacturing of lace and hosiery. There are dye factories from the 1800s that are still operative. . . . With a huge presence of textiles throughout the arts community in Philadelphia, there is a growing interest in bringing textile industries back to the city.”

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