Stuffed animals hang from the ceiling of The Gallery at South Puget Sound Community College. Fabric portraits are clipped to clotheslines. CDs woven with yarn are arranged in geometric patterns.
The gallery’s current show, Panorama, showcases a wide variety of colorful textile art, the results of a yearlong cross-generational collaboration between artists living in Lacey’s Panorama retirement community and students in the North Thurston and Tumwater school districts.
“It’s a great project, and it’s a really fun show,” gallery coordinator Sean Barnes told The Olympian. “It’s nice to have so much bright, vibrant work in here.”
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It’s also a big one, with more than 200 pieces made by about 300 students at workshops led by five Panorama textile artists, each of whom also is represented in the show.
Most of the students, in kindergarten through grade 12 when the projects were done from June 2017 to June 2018, attend North Thurston schools. The fiber artists also worked with classes at East Olympia Elementary in Tumwater and offered workshops at Lacey Boys & Girls Club.
“It was a really fun adventure for the kids,” said Gerda Randolph, who makes needle-felted sculptures. She taught two first-grade classes — one at Lacey Elementary and another at Pleasant Glade — to felt wool using soap and water.
Each student created a felt ball to take home, and each class worked together on a 30- by 45-inch wall hanging, one a forest scene with animals and the other a vase of flowers inspired by Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.”
The children made animals, flowers, birds and other design elements from wool, and Randolph placed them on the background. Then came the messy bit — lathering their hands with soap and water and rubbing the wool to turn it into felt.
“They got their hands into this soapy, squishy stuff,” Randolph told The Olympian. “That was probably the most fun part.”
“I think every one of us has a story,” said April Works, who helped kids decorate fabric-covered composition books and make textile self-portraits, among other projects.
She recalled one shy child who was thrilled by the chance to spend more time on art. When he completed his self-portrait, she said, “He was just beaming. I’d never seen a kid beam like that before.”
“There was a lot of excitement and buzz around the district,” said Courtney Schrieve, a spokesperson for the North Thurston School District, where the artists visited nine schools. “Making textiles with experienced artists was a thrill for the kids and a different medium than normal.”
It was a thrill for the artists, too, said Randolph, who recalled a memorable moment while working with the students in Rose Aitken’s art class at Lacey Elementary.
“The kids were working on the felt balls, and they spontaneously started singing, and right when they started singing, the principal walked in,” she said. “It was a magical experience.”
She also loved showing the students, who worked on the project over four days, the finished pieces. “It was incredible to see how pleased they were and how proud they were of what they had made,” she said.
- What: This textile exhibit showcases wet-felted wall hangings, stuffed animals, puppets, baskets and more — all made by about 300 children and youth working with elder artists and teachers living at Panorama retirement community.
- Where: The Gallery at the Minnaert Center for the Arts, South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Road SW, Olympia
- When: Through Dec. 7 with opening reception 6-8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2. The gallery is open noon-4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and by appointment.
- Admission: Free
- More information: 360-596-5527, spscc.edu/gallery