AMES, Iowa — A more than 130-year-old building on Ames' busy Main Street will be transformed by a colorful art installation next spring, and area residents are invited to help develop the project.
Jennifer Drinkwater, an Iowa State University assistant professor of art and visual culture and community art extension specialist, conceived the idea behind "Intertwine," which will bring together residents of Ames and Iowa to "yarn bomb" the façade of Design on Main, the ISU College of Design's satellite facility at 203-207 Main St. in downtown Ames.
Participants will be asked to knit or crochet a 1-foot-square panel using natural wool yarn and submit it along with an entry form including their name, town and inspiration for the panel. Completed squares will be stitched together into "a giant quilt" to sheath the two-story building, Drinkwater said. Twenty-two hundred panels are required to cover the front façade, including some that will be created using customized templates for architectural details such as moulding and window ledges. Window and door openings will be left uncovered.
The "quilt" will be installed by a local company at the end of April 2016 and remain on display through the end of May in conjunction with an exhibition of the participant entry forms in the Design on Main Gallery (203 Main St.).
"By temporarily transforming the exterior of an existing structure, 'Intertwine' will encourage passersby to interact with the building in a new and unexpected way," Drinkwater said. "Fabric invites touch. It softens hard surfaces and rough edges. We anticipate the handmade quality of the project will compel people to slow down and investigate each accessible panel, and then to enter the gallery.
"Once inside, visitors will be able to learn about the project and view the thousands of participant postcards. We will have a small studio in the back of the gallery and will encourage visitors to add new pieces to the installation or to embellish existing ones," she said.
At the end of the installation, the panels will be removed, cut into sections to be professionally cleaned, then sewn into 4-foot-by-8-foot blankets to be donated to local homeless and women's shelters.
Drinkwater received a nearly $10,000 Iowa Arts Council Art Project Grant, a $4,000 Burning Man Arts Global Art Grant and $1,200 in seed funding from the ISU College of Design to support the project. Volunteer hours and donated materials also will be vital to the effort's success, she said.
Jennifer Drinkwater, assistant professor of art and visual culture and community art extension specialist, hopes "Intertwine" will connect community members in a collaborative project.
"'Intertwine' intentionally blurs the lines between audience and participant and connects 'makers' in a collaborative project," Drinkwater said.
"In reaching out to many different organizations, we offer the opportunity for people who do not consider themselves to be artists to contribute to a public artwork and have their efforts included in an exhibition. We also seek to build community through the process of making the panels for installation and through donating the finished blankets."
Drinkwater is contacting local artists and art teachers, existing knitting and sewing groups, church organizations and retirement communities to invite participation, but emphasizes that anyone of any age or ability is welcome to contribute.
Beginning in September, the Design on Main Gallery will host a series of free public workshops and biweekly knitting/crocheting circles for community members to learn about the project and work on their individual panels. Participants in these gatherings will receive free yarn produced by a Nebraska company that sources its wool from farmers in the western United States, purchased through a locally owned business in Ames.
Early workshops will offer an introduction to knitting and crocheting, while later programs will explore topics like the relationship between sustainability and the yarn-making process, Drinkwater said.
Those outside of Ames and central Iowa who wish to contribute will be asked to supply their own wool yarn and mail in their completed panels and entry forms. All participants will be invited to email photos of their work and stories of their knitting/crocheting history for Drinkwater to share on the Intertwine project blog, which will allow anyone interested in the project to monitor progress online.
Complete project details, including submission forms and guidelines, are available on the "Intertwine" blog. Drinkwater is working with Ames fiber artist Kristin Roach to develop free handouts for Design on Main visitors with project details and knitting instructions, which will also be available online. Drinkwater plans to hire a videographer to document the project from start to finish and prepare a short video to help serve as a model for other communities that may be interested in pursuing a similar effort.
"I like the idea of people coming together and doing a big, visible public project and making connections with others they've never met. It's also a really fun project that gives back to the community," she said.
Jennifer Drinkwater, Art and Visual Culture, (515) 708-2825, firstname.lastname@example.org
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289, email@example.com