A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Constance Alexander: Murray Art Guild’s ‘Interwoven’ brings little pieces together for sense of community

Whether by chance or choice, in joy and sorrow, by accident or design, communities are made up of interconnected lives. As a reminder of that interdependence, Debi Henry Danielson, Executive Director of the Murray Art Guild (MAG), likes finding ways to invite people who do not think of themselves as artists to create individual pieces that will eventually blend into a larger design. MAG’s current project, “Interwoven” does just that.

“No experience necessary” is the emphasis of the project, and participation is free and open to all. “No matter age, race or gender,” the promotional flyer proclaims, “we are joined in the common bond of love of family, community, and shared human interests and values.”

Leadership Murray was the first local group to participate in “Interwoven,” and Ms. Danielson reports that some were reluctant at first. “’I can’t do this,’” was the initial reaction,” she said, adding, “Once they allowed themselves to do it, they did fine.”

Individuals and groups are welcome to participate in “Interwoven,” and MAG is also willing to send an artist to assist on-site gatherings in locales like the Senior Citizen Center and Hickory Woods Assisted Living Community. Packets of materials are available online for groups interested in conducting their own weaving sessions, and the MAG website also offers detailed directions for those who need them.

The starting point is a circle; either an old cd or a cardboard circle provides the frame for the warp. Colored yarn is woven in and out with a needle, much like the weaving, many did in Kindergarten.

Weaving is not the only artistic flourish. Some people write things on their frame, and others do a complete weaving. Any combination is acceptable.

Regardless of the individual approach to the task, the overall theme of the project speaks to the interconnectedness of people within a community. Earlier this month, two Saturday morning workshops attracted participants in public gatherings reminiscent of the old-time quilting bee.

When the doors opened at 10 a.m., things were pretty quiet, but then the lull morphed into a chatty space. When artist Ann Gosser learned about the Saturday workshop, she emailed her friends, who joined her for an hour of companionable weaving.

“It’s a chance to get together,” she said. “I think our mouths are engaged as much as our hands. “

To that, MSU librarian Cris Ferguson remarked that there is a proven connection between doing handwork and engaging one’s mind.

“When hands are busy, conversation happens,”Debi Danielson said.

She also explained that transformations occurring in gatherings like the workshops open up unforeseen channels of communication. “In an hour, they’re laughing, talking, connecting, and making plans to come back. People are interested in seeing how their small part becomes a piece of the whole.”

The word about “Interwoven” has traveled near and far. Some long-distance participants mailed in their completed circles, and local groups have requested workshops and/or materials. Others have read information online and decided to get involved. WATCH, Inc., a local organization serving developmentally/intellectually disabled adults, is working on their own weavings, and recently Murray High School delivered 160 circles to add to the tapestry.

In an era of conflict and controversy in local, state and national arenas, art has the ability to bring people together, and MAG has taken the initiative to offer opportunities like “Interwoven” to foster a unique brand of creative expression.

After the tragic school shooting in neighboring Marshall County, for instance, MAG and Murray’s community theater, Playhouse in the Park, teamed up to show support for several cast members of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” who are students at Marshall County High School.

Recently, one evening before rehearsal, everyone in the cast outlined their hands in color and combined them with written messages to the five Marshall County kids. Some shared heartfelt condolences and personal prayers, while others incorporated lines of inspiration from the play. All were framed into one big piece.

On Sunday, after the last performance of “Joseph…” the piece was portioned into six sections. Five went to the bereaved students, and one piece will stay at Playhouse in the Park. Like “Interwoven,” the aim is to reinforce community spirit.

A reception showcasing the “Interwoven” project is scheduled for Friday, February 23, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The public is welcome to stop by from February 24 to March 2 to admire the full display. The Murray Art Guild is located at 500 North 4th Street in Murray. MAG is closed Mondays, but the website is always available at murrayartguild.org. The phone number is 270-753-4059.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray, Ky. She can be reached at calexander9@murraystate.edu. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

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One Comment

  1. Sherron says:

    Fantastic!!!! This is needed nation wide!

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