The flowery spectacles are part of a new exhibit, “Threads: From Traditional to Today,” which opened recently at the Residence. They originated as part of an outreach project called Pop des Fleurs, started by the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh.
“We sent a bouquet to the Governor’s Residence to help them get started,” said Penny Mateer, a member of the Fiberarts Guild who also has a quilt on display in the “Threads” exhibit.
Philip Horn, executive director of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, said that “Threads” highlights the textile arts and the important role the industry has played in Pennsylvania’s history.
“What we really wanted to show is that there are all these wonderful folk artists practicing these wonderful things,” said Horn. “There is a rich history in Pennsylvania being passed along from generation to generation and evolving in new ways.”
The council tried to include art that would appeal to different types of audiences, including everything from an Aztec regalia piece created by Brujo de la Mancha to Mateer’s 80-by-80-inch quilt, a black-and-white interpretation of a photograph of Pittsburgh’s skyline, said Norah Johnson, the council’s director of new projects and capabilities.
“We are really interested in giving people, whether they travel to Harrisburg or live here, a chance to see art they wouldn’t normally get to see,” she said.
The Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh also contributed panels from a previous outreach project, “Knit the Bridge,” the largest yarn bomb in the United States that covered the Andy Warhol Bridge in Pittsburgh in 2013. The panels are on display around the Residence.
“At the conclusion of the run, the panels will be laundered and given away to local animal and homeless shelters,” said Mateer. “The goal is to recycle the material as much as possible all the time.”
Johnson said there will be other interactive elements as well, including the latest installment of “Woven Welcome,” a participatory art project developed by artist Jill Odegaard, which allows visitors to weave on a loom with recycled fabric.
Passing It On
For visitors interested in seeing a live demonstration, Allie Marguccio is scheduled to visit during “Arts in the Garden.” Marguccio is a lacemaker who was exposed to the art form in 1979, when one of her cousins came to visit from Slovenia.
Years later, she began attending an annual craft festival, where she saw a bobbin lace group and immediately recognized what they were doing.
“One of the reasons I felt compelled to do this was my dad,” Marguccio said. “When he retired, he got very interested in genealogy. I saw lacemaking as an extension of that.”
She continued learning what she could about lacemaking in the United States and eventually was awarded a grant by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts in 2008 to complete a lacemaking apprenticeship in Idrija, a town in western Slovenia. Marguccio, who retired from her job as an elementary school librarian in 2013, now teaches lacemaking across Pennsylvania and the country.
Horn said that one of the most interesting aspects of this exhibit is that it features artists who don’t necessarily think of themselves as artists.
Johnson added that one artist in particular, Vera Nakonechny, lives to share what she does to make sure it stays alive with future generations.
Nakonechny was born in 1947 in Germany to Ukrainian parents. She lived in Brazil until age 14, when her family moved to the United States. She grew up watching her mother embroider in the traditional Ukrainian style, a technique she now follows.
“Because of communism in Ukraine, much of the history was lost,” Nakonechny said, adding that she has made regular trips there since 1991. “When we go through these villages, we find the elderly were afraid to pass things down or have forgotten things. Younger generations were not always interested in learning the traditions.”
She will have about 12 pieces on display in the “Threads” exhibit, and she hopes that her work will inspire visitors.
“I am constantly learning, constantly searching, and also teaching,” says Nakonechny, who was named a National Heritage for the Arts National Heritage Fellow in 2014. “Life is all about learning and passing it on.”
“Threads: From Traditional to Today” will be on display through the end of August at the Governor’s Residence, Front and Maclay streets, Harrisburg. The Residence will be open this month during 3rd in The Burg, April 15. For more information about tours and events at the Residence, visit www.residence.pa.gov.
More information about the Pop Des Fleur project and instructions on how to create your own flowers are available at www.popdesfleurs.com.