Thinking Big: Community Art through Sewing

Amanda Browder (left) and moi

Have you ever looked at your fabric stash and thought, "Gee, I wonder what would happen if I sewed all of these fabrics together and then draped them out of my apartment window."  Yeah, the thought never crossed my mind either, but it did for artist Amanda Browder!  She did it, and people loved it, and she's gone on to create art all over the country, building on that original concept.

Amanda Browder is a Brooklyn based artist.  You can see some of her other work at her website: . Last October, Amanda came to my city and as luck would have it, to one of my elementary schools, to work with our community to create "Chromotopia"- her vision for the front of the school.  This was a collaboration between our elementary school, the university, our community and Amanda.  Amanda would end up coming several times for community sewing days, and yesterday, the culmination of months of work was installed for a week long display.

First, requests went out to the community for fabric donations, and they came rolling in.  At our first community sewing day, we had volunteers from the community, staff, and students working together to sort the donations into different color piles.  After sorting, came the task of piecing all of these piles together into extra long strips using sewing machines.

We had several community sewing days over several months, and in addition to that, some of our students in the school would work on this project regularly during the school day as well.  I'd never participated in a community art project before, and I can tell you that it was really exciting being part of something so big!

As you get closer to the display, you can see each individual piece, and know that there is a story behind each fabric.  Like this little elephant.  You know that was probably some toddler's favorite blankie!

Or this quilt top next to a sequinned sari fabric.  Where did these come from?  You imagination can come up with so many possibilities!

Can you imagine being a child just 3 or 4 feet tall, and walking into your school all dressed up in a giant quilt?  It's got to be a pretty fantastic feeling.

The display is covering a few windows, and this is what it looks like from the inside- almost like stained glass.  Very pretty!

Here is the back of a wall where you can see that it's being held down by sandbags.  There is a combination of sandbags, cables and PVC pipe that holds everything in place, through wind, rain or whatever nature may throw at us.

Here's a shot from a drone showing all of the design.  And the one below with all of the students and staff enjoying the accomplishment.

We'll be able to enjoy it just for the weekend!  I guess part of what makes this special is the fleeting nature of it.  It was such a great experience to take sewing outside and involve so many people to make art together.  And Amanda was so kind, generous, and inspiring to us all throughout this process. So, take it from Amanda- let your imagination run wild and think big!

Happy Sewing!

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