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Genue Inc.
February 27, 2018

Inside the Fabric Workshop & Museum

Founded in 1977 by Marion Boulton Stroud (March 22, 1939–August 22, 2015), the Fabric Workshop and Museum (FWM) grew to be considered one of the most distinguished art museums and unique artist residencies in the United States.

 

 

Marion graduated from Philadelphia University (as did our Genuinely You feature Kassie Dyes!), with a degree in art history, and started a community organization called “Prints in Progress” teaching silk-screening and basic textile printing skills kids from inner-city Philadelphia. Eventually, she started the FMW, inviting artists to come for two-week residencies “without any preconceived notions of what they had to do.” Marion’s stated goal for FMW was “to explore, to take liberties, to be a studio and laboratory of new design, unhampered by rules and precedents.”

 

 

 

 

The FWM artist-in-residence program, for which they are perhaps best known, started as an invitation for contemporary artists to experiment with fabric, incorporating new techniques and materials, thus creating work that would not otherwise be possible. In 1978, the FMW hosted 22 artists in two-week residencies. As the program has grown, the residencies now range from 2 weeks to 2 years with the proposed projects broader in scope and scale, now encouraging experimentation with materials and techniques beyond the print and fabric-based origins.

 

 

 

When I was a senior in college, my department took a trip to Philadelphia and visited the FMW. I was immediately struck by the large-scale, graphic, bright and multi-colored design they were printing on their 75-foot long printing tables, and the image has stuck with me since. In the almost six years since I visited, I have realized that some of my favorite work from a number of contemporary artists is thanks to the collaboration encouraged by the FWM.

 

 

 

One of the artists in residence—Louise Bourgeois—and a personal favorite of mine was a resident at FWM in 1991. Inspired by the vast length of the printing tables at the FWM, Bourgeois decided to print “a scarf” that would wrap the walls of the gallery as part of a multimedia sculptural show. The scarf read:

 

“A man and a woman lived together. On one evening he did not

come back from work. And she waited. She kept on waiting and

she grew littler and littler. Later, a neighbor stopped by out off

friendship and there he found her, in the armchair, the size of a pea

 

 

 

Another artist I have long admired—Jun Kaneko—also spent time at the FWM.  Kaneko’s work features masterful mixing of prints and colors, including his canvas Bag, which is produced for, and sold by, the FWM. Kaneko’s Bag is a textile, flexible, portable vase.

 

 

 

The FMW offers tours, and if you are going to be in or around Philadelphia soon, I cannot recommend it highly enough!

 

 

 

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