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This article by Sally Friedman was prepared for the March 19, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

The Raw Material of Art

Back in 1977, Marion Boulton Stroud had the germ of

an idea. Then the director of Prints in Progress, a workshop for inner-city

youth that offered training in print-making, Stroud was taken with

the new notion of allowing artists to stretch their esthetic muscles

and tackle new forms of expression.

With 5,000 square feet above a trousers store on Arch Street, and

a two-year lease, "Kippy" Stroud founded the Fabric Workshop,

now known as the Fabric Workshop and Museum. She still serves as the

artistic director of America’s only fabric museum, one that has attracted

some of the most distinguished artists of our time as a kind of artistic


The Fabric Workshop and Museum recently celebrated its 25th anniversary

with a gala that opened its commemorative show, "New Material

as New Media: The Fabric Workshop and Museum at 25 Years." Guest

curator for the exhibit is Anne d’Harnoncourt of the Philadelphia

Museum of Art.

In its earliest days, the Fabric Workshop and Museum worked largely

with silkscreen printing over fabric. But as artists themselves began

experimenting and expanding the vision new techniques and materials

emerged. That experimentation continues, and there is the sense that

this is a repository for unique contemporary art related to fabric,

rather than just a showcase for textiles.

"This is a very exciting time for us," said Sue Patterson,

a project coordinator and construction technician who loves to show

newcomers around the Fabric Workshop, now located on Cherry Street

on several floors encompassing 35,000 square feet and including a

remarkable archive of every single artist’s project from the Workshop’s


The anniversary exhibition is a rare chance for visitors to view the

vastly diverse works that involve fabric. "Often, people don’t

realize just how amazing fabric can be in the hands of artists,"

said Patterson as she guided a visitor past one of the more striking

areas of the exhibit, a display of all-wool Los Angeles Police Department

uniforms lining a wall in one of the galleries. The oversized uniforms,

hanging from an expanse of wall, create a dramatic tableau.

But that’s just the beginning. Visitors can also view

unusual contemporary works being shown for the first time like Bill

Viola’s "The Veiling," a video and sound installation in which

a dream-like quality is created by a series of sheer scrims, chronicling

the slow approach of a man and woman towards one another. Then there’s

Rachel Whiteread’s untitled work, a soft, amorphous mound that is

actually a white felt floor impregnated with polyurethane. Whiteread’s

big, innovative sculptures projects are known among the gems of the

Charles Saatchi collection in London.

More wandering takes visitors to Glenn Ligon’s "Skin Tight,"

a series of eight punching bags — yes, punching bags — awash

with stenciled words from "The Greatest," the film whose subject

was Mohammed Ali. Is this art? You decide.

There’s also British artist Christine Borland’s sculpture, "Bullet

Proof Breath," another anniversary exhibition standout. Created

by Borland of glass and spider-woven silk strong enough to be used

in bullet-proof vests, the piece looks like an extraordinary ice sculpture.

"Flea Circus" by Maria Fernanda Cardoso, is another show-stopper

that will convince skeptics that artists who work in textiles need

to be taken seriously. A reproduction of a 19th-century flea circus,

the huge work is the result of Cardoso’s extensive research into the

flea circus phenomenon, and is displayed complete with tent, arena,

tiny flea costumes, and props. A medley of fabrics is incorporated

into the piece, including taffeta, silk, rayon and polyester.

"The Workshop has allowed artists to immerse themselves in work

many have never done before," explains staffer Sue Patterson.

"Fabric becomes more than most people envision it to be."

This is certainly the case with Jim Hodges’ remarkable screen, "You,"

created entirely of pressed, overlapping silk flowers and exquisite

from both front and back, and with the late celebrated pop artist

Roy Lichtenstein’s 1979 silk shirt that could never be described as

subdued, with its flashes of dots and stripes on an off-white background.

One of the Workshop’s most touching stories involves its permanent

artist in residence, Willie Stokes. He arrived at the Workshop in

1977, without formal training but full of ideas about how to communicate

through whimsical creatures in an attempt to enlighten people about

"a world of animals that people don’t see everyday." His exuberant

prints on fabric are standouts in the current exhibition.

Along with its international apprenticeship programs, the Fabric Workshop

has outreach programs for children, and a long history of international

touring exhibitions.

Whatever you once thought about fabric will be unalterably altered

when you survey the works of famous and emerging artists who transform

even ordinary cotton into works of rare beauty and vision.

The over 400 artists and the apprentices who have been nurtured by

the workshop owe the place a lot. In turn, we who can see what can

become of simple yardage owe those artists a debt of aesthetic gratitude.

If you want to take some creativity home, visit the workshop’s store

and carry off some material.

— Sally Friedman

The Fabric Workshop and Museum, 1315 Cherry Street (at

13th Street, Philadelphia, 215-568-1111. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m.

to 6 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Free. To April 19.

Top Of Page
Call for Entries

<B>The Professional Writers Alliance of Mercer County

invites high school journalists in New Jersey and Bucks County, Pennsylvania,

to submit their published articles to the Fifth Annual High School

Journalism Contest. Entries should be submitted by mail and postmarked

no later than April 15. Articles in news, feature, and editorial/op-ed

categories must be published between April 16, 2002, and April 15,


Winners will receive cash, gift certificates, and prizes at

a PWA gala reception and concert, Saturday, May 31, at the Ellarslie

Museum, Trenton. Official entry forms and contest rules have been

sent to area high school English departments and newspaper faculty

advisors. Entry forms can also be obtained from contest chair Amy

Krause at, or by calling 609-585-5085.

The Kelsey Review, a Mercer County literary magazine,

invites area writers and artists to submit their work for consideration

for September publication. Short fiction, poetry, essays, samplings

of novels, black and white line drawings and cartoons may be submitted

by Thursday, May. 1. Prose limit is 2,000 words; poetry limit is six

pieces. Material should not be previously published. Call 609-586-4800,

ext. 3326; email All those who submit material

will be notified about a month after the deadline regarding inclusion

in the journal, and will receive individual comments on their submissions.

Typed, double-spaced manuscripts should be sent with SASE to Robin

Schore, editor, The Kelsey Review, at Mercer County Community College,

PO Box B, Trenton, NJ 08690.

Top Of Page
Donations Please

Music & Arts Centers is accepting donations of used musical

instruments to be repaired and given to metro-area school music programs.

Music & Arts Center, Mercer Mall, 3375 Route 1, Suite 150, Lawrenceville

is accepting instruments through Monday, March 31. Call 609-987-9595

for information or

Top Of Page

Contact of Mercer County offers training to new volunteers

who want to become involved with the 24-hour hotline. Sessions in

Ewing are offered on ten Tuesdays, morning and evening, from March

25 through May 27, or on four Saturdays, April 5, 12, 26, and May

3. Call 609-883-2880 for information or to register.

Top Of Page
Participate Please

A symposium titled Dyslexia: Reading, Recordings and Resources,

scheduled for Thursday, March 27, from 7 to 9 p.m., will show parents

and teachers of students with learning disabilities ways that they

can help their children learn and succeed in school. Three New Jersey

nonprofit organizations are sponsors of this event: The National Headquarters

of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D), the New Jersey Unit

of RFB&D, and the New Jersey Branch of the International Dyslexia

Association. The symposium will take place at RFB&D’s National Headquarters,

20 Roszel Road in Princeton. Registration fee is $20.

The panel discussion features George Renwick, an educational consultant

and former director of pupil services; Dawn Holubiak and her teenage

daughter Tanya, who has dyslexia; Dr. Gordon Sherman of Newgrange

School, Hamilton. Peter Smith and Karen LeMorvan, RFB&D, will explain

RFB&D’s mission and the services it provides. A question-and-answer

period follows. Information at or call toll free 866-RFBD-585.

Holy Assumption PTA seeks crafters and vendors for the

Craft & Vendor show on Sunday, March 30, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at

Holy Assumption School, 1290 Hornberger Avenue, Roebling. The fee

is $20 for the table and a raffle donation. Call Francine Kowalczyk

at 609-499-4861 or E-mail:

Plainsboro Public Library is conducting a challenge contest

with prizes. "We’ve Got Your Number" is for Plainsboro residents

and Mercer County Library System reciprocal borrowers. Log onto the

library’s website (, access some of the databases

using their library card numbers, and answer 12 questions. Contest

sheet must be returned to the library (641 Plainsboro Road, Plainsboro

08536) by Tuesday, April 1; winner will be announced on Sunday, April

6. Call 609-275-2898.

Township of East Windsor is accepting nominations for

the annual Sylvia Weiss Senior Citizen Award for Outstanding Service

as a Volunteer. Nominees must at least 60 years of age and residents

of East Windsor. The deadline is Tuesday, April 15. 609-443-4000.

Eden Institute Foundation offers scholarships to area

high school senior who are planning college majors and future careers

in special education or related disciplines. Applications, available

at high school guidance counselors, must be postmarked by Friday,

April 1

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