Art Activism: Arts on South gives Handmade a Chance

Arts Street Textile Studio: Handmade with the Homeless, 626 South St. Open Wednesday through Sunday 3-8pm. $1 drop-in work sessions (up to a full afternoon and evening). ALTWalk and Fourth Friday (Arts on South gallery walk) beginning Friday, October 22, 5-8pm and continuing through December.  Contact Kathryn Pannepacker, and Leslie Sudock,

Textile Arts: A fancy word for something we’ve done for centuries. As local textile and Mural Arts artists, Kathryn Pannepacker, likes to point out, fabrics are as universal and diverse as language. Every nationality and culture has an expression; traditions of imagery, color and pattern woven into blankets, rugs, tapestries and clothes.

Inside Art Street Textile Studio

Inside Art Street Textile Studio

Rob, a man who spends his evenings at the Ridge Avenue Shelter, has become a weaver. During open hours at Art Street Textile Studio, an open studio on South Street directed by Pannepacker and fellow fabric artist, Leslie Sudock, he weaves scarves on a floor loom that are sold at the studio’s storefront. Lately, he has brought friends from the shelter and taught them how to use a loom.
The Studio is an independent, artist-run project aimed at breaking down the stigma around homelessness by building a community around textiles. It is operated entirely by unpaid volunteers. Anyone interested in working on a loom, knitting, crocheting, quilting or embroidering can sign in, leave a dollar and spend the afternoon working with other locals while receiving informal lessons from the studio directors. Projects created in the studio are sold there, at an affordable price, and proceeds are split 50/50, with half to the crafter and half to the studio for operating costs.
The effort is a continuation of Finding Home, a woven mural at 13th & Ludlow Streets. During the mural’s creation, Pannepacker and fellow Mural Arts artists, Josh Sarantitis and Shelby Donnelly along with many local artists and volunteers, worked in homeless shelters and cafes, guiding homeless through the weaving process to add to the mural. Citywide, there were hundreds of participants. The mural—Woven from the strips of parachute paper where participants wrote their personal stories, poems and prayers—required studio space. Pannepacker worked in the 8th street café, a now defunct shelter. At times when the mural was stuck in paperwork or other hold ups, she kept the energy going by assisting participants with individual projects. Unfortunately after the mural was completed, 8th street café was closed and there was an even stronger need to keep the studio going. “There was this whole community and enthusiasm and eagerness for this project as it developed, “ Pannepacker says. “When the café closed, there was this [reaction of], ‘oh my god, where’s the studio gonna go? What are you guy’s gonna do?'”

Pannepacker and participants in an outdoor studio, Logan Park

Pannepacker, Sudock, along with participating artists and studio members took the looms and equipment to Central Library, where she operated an informal studio a few afternoons a week. In the summer, eager to get non-homeless in on the project as well, the studio moved outdoors to Logan Square Park. The directors even set up makeshift canvases on standing looms so people could paint. Within a few months the project was picked up by Arts on South, an effort to reduce vacancies on South Street by providing rent-free spaces to the arts and on September 24, 2010, Art Street Textile Studio to South Street.  Rob and other participants from shelters across the city followed the Studio to its new location. “We’re teaching folks some basic things,” Pannepacker says. “[Textile] is a real tangible medium to work with. Your feel it. Your hands are right in it.”

Currently, the Studio houses three looms, a store and limited gallery space, crochet and knitting stations and a backroom lounge and free coffee and tea for people who are working. Pannepacker and Suduck along with artists, Rachel Gucwa and Mary Newsom manage the studio durring open hours.  Materials are provided, largely through donation, and the Studio also plans to open the upstairs for quilting and hold public workshops, at an affordable price during daytime hours. If you are interested in volunteering, donating or holding workshops in the space, please contact the directors or stop by the Studio during open hours.

This is a community-invested arts project. There are many ways to get involved:

Donations. Arts Street Textile Studio seeks the following donations:
Soft yarns
Warp (foundation strings)
Cash donations (directors and employees are currently unpaid volunteers)

Volunteer Opportunities:
Managing during office hours
Network at local shelters for increased participation

Artist Opportunities:
Design and hold workshops at the Studio
Set up Looms
Network at local shelters (particularly women’s shelters) and show your handmade work
Exhibit local artwork (Ask Directors)

-Dana Henry

5 Responses to “Art Activism: Arts on South gives Handmade a Chance”

  1. lilithsapothecary

    Great post! WOW – This is such a great initiative, and I didn’t even know about it. Thanks for spreading the word.

  2. Tanna

    Nice Dana! This is an amazing project.

  3. Rita

    You are one amazing woman, and I want to volunteer some time to this project.

  4. Ruth

    Fabulous article! This is just the sort of thing I’d love to get involved with. YES! Kudos and thanks, to all of those who are involved.

  5. Diane Horowitz

    Great Project. I would like to volunteer some time to help with it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s