FiberPhiladelphia 2012 Opening Night with Amy Orr and Bruce Hoffman

Posted by Cassandra Hoo on March 05, 2012
“Hope” By Riccardo Berlingeri (featured in “Inside/Outside the Box”)

I wasn’t too familiar with the fiber/textile art scene until I attended the very impressive “Sense of Place” exhibit at the Philadelphia Art Alliance last month (please click here to read all about it).  Since then, I’ve become fascinated with this playful, dynamic, and ever evolving medium.  FiberPhiladelphia 2012, a two month long citywide showcase and celebration of fiber/textile art, just commenced on March 2nd.  I’m very happy that my recent hunger for fiber/textile art can be satiated with a plentiful feast for the eyes during the months of March and April.

Since I had access to a car and it was raining this past First Friday, I decided to be adventurous and drive to the Crane Arts Building in Old Kensington with my friend, April, to see what FiberPhiladelphia 2012 events were going on.  When April and I got there, the place was pretty desolate.  As it turns out, the opening reception parties for all of the exhibitions at the Crane Arts Building were happening the following evening — whoops!  Luckily, Amy Orr, the Director of FiberPhiladelphia, and Bruce Hoffman, the curatorial consultant for “Outside/Inside the Box” and FiberPhiladelphia 2012, were giving a private tour of the “Distinguished Educators” exhibition in the Grey Area and the “Outside/Inside the Box” exhibition in the Icebox Project Space to THEartblog’s First Friday Art Safari Group.  My slight mistake ended up being pure kismet.  I was able to learn about the history of fiber/textile art, the curation process for the two exhibits, and so many other interesting facts while having plenty of elbow room.  There were also some other really great exhibitions in the Crane Arts Building that I was able to check out as well.  All in all, the night was a complete success.

I recorded and transcribed the introductory speech that Amy Orr and Bruce Hoffman gave to our group.  I have included a section of the conversation here, because I think that it really gives great insight into why fiber/textile art is becoming such a popular and more respected mainstream high art medium, how they think the medium is evolving, and what they hope the future beholds for fiber/textile arts.

Amy Orr: “I think that we are finding that people are looking at it [fiber arts] as a fine art now and we are not having to explain ourselves or define what the field is.  And it’s really an exciting moment to be here in Philadelphia.  We are really thrilled to show ourselves as a part of the art community and just be out loud, you know?”

Bruce Hoffman: “We actually probably have one of the most significant historical areas for textile development in the United States.  Through mills… and production… and dyes… and the Germantown fabrics that were sent to the Native Americans. We also have five of the most important textile educational schools in the past 100 years in Philadelphia.  So there’s an incredible history here.”

Amy Orr:  “At the same moment, we don’t know what’s going on in textile education, so that’s an interesting conversation in fact.  And our speaker [Elissa Auther, author of String, Felt, Thread: The Hierarchy of Art and Craft in American Art] is interested in seeing why the educational programs are being phased out or faculty are not being rehired as fibers thrive.  So it’s really this kind of strange juxtaposition.  Maybe the fiber departments end and they just become a part of fine arts… or they take over the world.  You know, different things are happening.  I think one of the things that comes out of this is that there wil be more critical writing about fibers.  I think that would be the best case scenario… and to sell art, because that is what every individual artist hopes for.”

Bruce Hoffman: “B Square Gallery was one of the first galleries to participate.  And they wanted to do an exhibit that had nothing specifically material-wise to deal with textiles.  But it reflected the reference to textiles.  And in our eyes, that is as important as the physical element of the materials.  The idea and the material.  And that is what is happening with universities.  That the idea and the material are all melding together and we are trying to decide where that fits in the 21st century.  Do you define yourself strictly by material or strictly by a method of working?  That’s probably the exciting part of the arts right now.”

Please stay tuned for individual articles on the “Distinguished Educators” exhibition in the Grey Area, the “Outside/Inside Box” exhibition in the Icebox Project Space, “Into the Woods – Featuring Dianne Koppisch Hricko and Joan Dreyer” in Crane Arts Hall, and “Sarah Wondrack: Modified Familiarities” in the Archive Space.

Written and photographed by Cassandra Hoo: Contributing Writer, SideArts 

Learn more about fiber/textile art by buying a copy of String, Felt, Thread: The Hierarchy of Art and Craft in American Art at Amazon (You’ll save over $10 off the listing price). [Side Arts Affiliate Marketing Disclosure]

4 Comments to FiberPhiladelphia 2012 Opening Night with Amy Orr and Bruce Hoffman

[...] I have hand picked some of my favorite pieces of artwork from the two exhibitions.  Please scroll down to get a preview of what you can expect when you attend these two stellar shows.  If you would like to learn more about FiberPhiladelphia, please also read my article: FiberPhiladelphia 2012 Opening Night with Amy Orr and Bruce Hoffman.  [...]

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