On a gray December morning, splashes of color warmed and brightened the Lied Art Center at Whitworth University. The color came in the form of rugs crafted by students in the community arts in practice class taught by Katie Creyts.
“We taught ourselves how to crochet using recycled T-shirts from friends,” Creyts said. “Getting started was really hard.”
Each student created a rug and on Dec. 8, they met to stitch their rugs together and share what they’d learned about each other during the class. This was their final, and it came complete with laughter, doughnuts and coffee.
“The premise of community arts in practice is to build community and connection through creative expression,” Creyts said.
The rug will stay in the commons area of the art center. “This building is so modern, we decided it needed a bit of color and craft,” she said.
The purpose of the class is to create art with and for the community, and explore art venues, exhibits and events in Spokane.
Their first project was to create tables for Big Table, an organization that supports those who work in the restaurant industry.
The collaboration resulted in three exquisitely crafted tables. One includes a wooden relief of the Big Table logo under glass. A second featured an inset that holds glass tiles. Each tile represents an image related to Big Table and the tiles are designed to be rearranged by guests like a puzzle. The third decorative table incorporated a wine barrel, LED lights and wine bottles.
Next the students were divided into four groups, assigned to create art for The Women’s Hearth, Center Pointe, Rockwood Retirement Center and the Girl Scouts. “The idea was to not only do a project, but to get to know the people they were working with,” Creyts said.
Yasha Puzankov, a graphic design major, was part of the Rockwood Retirement team. “We did a watercolor project. One of the guys said, ‘You need to paint with us,’ so we did,” Puzankov said. “We painted our pieces while we talked.”
Mary Viducich, 20, went to The Women’s Hearth. “We made journals with the women that reflected their identity,” she said.
As they crafted the journals, Viducich said, “People really opened up and shared about their lives – I didn’t expect that. I felt like I was being served more than they were.”
For some students, a highlight was getting to know more about Spokane’s art scene. “Not only do we want to bring art to the community but we want to recognize that this is a community full of art,” Creyts said.
Student Bre Taylor particularly enjoyed attending BeGin at the Museum of Arts and Culture. “I’ve lived here most of my life but I didn’t know the art community was so big in Spokane,” she said.
The students laughed and chatted as they stitched their final project. Puzankov labored over a rug and said, “I’ve never done anything like this. When you’ve been working on it for a while it gets fun – now I can’t stop.”
Jeff Ferguson smiled. “When I signed up for the class, I never thought I’d be making a rug. I’ve never held a crochet hook.”
Their final included sharing stories they’d learned about each other while working on the rugs. Tales included experiments involving lighters and hairspray, mice falling out of light fixtures, and a student whose parents took away her cellphone so many times, she finally learned to knit to keep her hands occupied.
“When technology is taken away, all of the sudden you have time for handicrafts,” Creyts said.
Students found time to listen, share and connect. Viducich said, “When we’re away from iPods and computers, we really get to know each other.”