This community arts project is dedicated to engaging cancer patients and survivors, community artists and students in the creation of 200 distinct hand dyed and printed scarves. These art scarves will feature original poetry exploring the theme of the Heroic Journey. Participants will engage in a cumulative, collaborative textile experience beginning with guided writing sessions (led by poet, Grey Brown and assisted by Peg) and ending in wearable art made from radiantly colored silk.
Wrap Your Head Around It, an interdisciplinary residency combining writing, surface design and an ongoing discussion of women’s identity in health will be implemented in three stages engaging several distinct groups over a 6 month period. The Cancer Center at Duke Hospital in Durham, NC will host the writing sessions, serve as the central portal for disseminating art scarves and will host a public exhibition documenting the project. Additional creative partners include: Light Gallery, Chapel Hill, NC, art students from Meredith College, Elon University, and NC A&T University,and Mulberry Silks Sewing Studio, Carrboro, plus Frank Gallery, Chapel Hill, NC, and possibly YOU!
So what is the story behind this story? I have been messing around with poetry and letter forms forever; scribbling in notebooks, reading great writers- admiring language as essential communication and as a dynamic visual tool. I have discovered again and again that when text become textile remarkable things can happen.
This project invites participants to contribute to a project that is monumental - not only in materials: (1000’s of words + 8 lbs of dye + 2 gallons of ink + 50 screens + 300 yards of silk + 25 spools of thread = 200 scarves.) but also in its potential to touch and transform lives, create and promote community and to help participants to find solace and support through the creative process. Released into the community, these scarves will be understood not only as public art action but also valued in a powerful intimate context.
I am very accustomed to making large textiles for empty walls. I hunger to make art that is personal in scale (the scarf) and that is sparked from making authentic emotional connections. Making, sharing giving away words has been essential to my art making process. The scarf is the perfect billboard.
To do this well I enjoy working with professional writers. And I believe that this project requires the skillful and sensitive leadership of poet, Grey Brown who has been writing with a variety of patient populations at Duke Hospital, including oncology and bone marrow transplant, for over twenty years. From 2003 -2008, Grey and I worked together at Duke, gathering writing for art quilts to fund programming for Duke’s Children’s Health Center. In addition to her work with patients, Grey has been a leader in the national arts in healthcare movement providing workshops and presentations on how to offer writing in a healthcare setting. With sufficient support, Grey and I would like to reach a wider audience with this project by presenting WRAP at the 2015 Global Alliance for Arts in Health 26th Annual International Conference.
How is this going to work?
1) Writing Sessions; Under the direction of poet, Grey Brown, cancer patients, caregivers and survivors will explore new definitions of the Heroic Journey. Sessions will include writing prompts, the opportunity to write and to share one’s work, word play and the creation of group poems. Participants will explore personal narratives as well as experiences shared by women whose lives have been touched by cancer. Writing groups to be offered in ten 60-minute sessions coordinated with the Duke’s Cancer Patient Support (Oct - Dec 2014). Peg will attend all writing sessions and prepare selected texts for screen prints. Textile artist, Brooke Heuts will assist with documentation, graphic design, surface design and stitching workshops.
2) Surface Design workshops: Peg will facilitate multiple sessions of dye and print workshops with partnering groups; Meredith College Art students, NC A&T Art students, Elon University art students and Cancer Community participants. Plus Peg will be offering semi private workshops in her home studio. (Oct- Feb 2015. )
3) Scarf construction: Peg will oversee a series of 5 stitching sessions with a roster of 20 experienced textile artists (students and colleagues assembled by Gignoux). Together they will piece together art scarves. Location: Mulberry Silks sewing classroom in Carrboro,NC.
4) Public exhibition: Scarves in a banner style display with documentation by Barbara Tyroler, Brooke Heuts and video by Brandon Yow at The Frank Gallery, Chapel Hill, NC (March-April 2015) and the Cancer Center at Duke Hospital, Durham, NC (May-June 2015).
5) Art scarf delivery: Kristy Everette, recreational therapist at Duke Medical Center will publicize writing sessions, attend writing sessions and work with Duke counselors and social workers to identify recipients. Participating writers and artists will also be invited to fill out registration forms for naming a recipient.
Risks and challenges
I have created complex public art projects that have occurred in structured classrooms and in improvised spaces where equipment might by dodgy and participation not always guaranteed. As a community based project, Wrap seeks to activate many unknowns.
1) Will writers show up?
With the support of Duke Cancer Patient Support Program we will find writers. We will advertise through Duke Cancer Center Institute Calendar, Cornucopia House, Cancer Center Boutique, and Duke Cancer Center Newsletter. We know that making art in healthcare requires flexibility and patience. We will go to bedside, utilize social media -- whatever it takes to activate the creative forces of writers connected to a cancer story.
2) What will these writing sessions stir up?
Alongside creative expression can be some chaos. Our team includes this pledge of support from Kristy Everette, Recreational Therapist at Duke: "I will also be on hand as well as a member of our patient support program, a social worker or counselor. All Duke cancer patients receive free counseling and support no matter their stage of survivorship. If patients need support during or after any of our groups, these counseling services will provide a safety net and continued care."
3) Word Design:Nov-Dec 2014:
Grey Brown and Peg Gignoux edit/select community words for scarves.
Peg Gignoux and Brooke Heuts create screen prints of selected texts.
4) Surface design scheduling:
A timeline has been arranged with dates scheduled for area university art students to participate in the dye and print sessions. For each partnering university there is an established relationship with professor in art department in the event of weather or illness:
(Emily Soldin@ Meredith College:Oct/ Nov) (Harriet Hoover@ NCA&T: Jan/Feb) (Gignoux@Elon:Jan)
Plus semi private sessions in Gignoux's Carrboro studio available to Wrap kickstarter supporters. (Oct- Feb)
5) How do you stitch so many scarves?
The bulk of the scarves will be constructed at Mulberry Silks Classroom, Carrboro. Jan- March 2015
Scarf design and construction; facilitated by Peg
Sundays: Feb 8, 15, 22, March 1,8 (10am-5pm)
Workshop sessions assisted by Susan Kobesky, manager Mulberry Silks. Studio classroom and equipment use (6 sewing machines/ irons)
Recruitment of Advanced stitchers include:
•Mulberry Silks window display of prototype scarves
•Mulberry Silks website posting of project
•Participants recruited by Gignoux via WRAP video, social media
6) Exhibition of scarves = Creative Community Links
Wrap Your Head Around It exhibitions at:
•The Frank Gallery: March 15- April 5 (scarves, poetry, video update) Salon evening with poetry, discussion: March 19, 2015
•Duke Cancer Center: May - June 2015
7) Getting the Scarves to recipients?
Duke Cancer Support will help identify recipients with registration form. Kristy Everette to assist with HIPPA guidelines and connections to the cancer community.
8) What if we run out of scarves?
Then this has been a great success and worth doing! If we surpass our funding goal we can make more scarves! We can share what we have learned at arts in health care conference and stir others to take up this work in other communities. We would love to do it all again.
- (50 days)