The Sewing Circle Project
The Sewing Circle Project assists newcomer, refugee, and immigrant textile artists to produce and sustain their traditional art forms and share their work and cultural expressions with public audiences. ICR’s Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program, often working with various Hartford-based refugee groups, service providers, and regional folk arts organizations, develops exhibits, training sessions, artist gatherings, and marketing opportunities for Sewing Circle artists. Group members include Bosnian weavers, Somali basket makers, Burmese Karen weavers, Hmong embroiderers, and Iranian lace makers.
Project goals include: encouraging preservation and conservation of cultural expressions that newcomers bring with them to America; providing technical assistance that aids artists in continuing their art forms; enhancing artists’ capacity to integrate into and contribute to American society; bringing their rich cultural forms to public attention; and achieving business literacy and income from marketing their cultural work. In addition, the project harnesses the power of art – especially art based in cultural heritage and familiar traditions – to heal those who still experience serious mental health issues because of war-related trauma.
This project was inspired by the traveling exhibit Weavings of War: Fabrics of Memory which ICR hosted in its Jean J. Schensul Community Gallery in 2006. Since then the Sewing Circle Project has involved over two dozen artists, mostly women, in new product development, farmers’ markets and craft shows, and several exhibits and demonstrations. We are collaborating with artists from similar cultural backgrounds in New York, Vermont and Maine to exchange ideas and techniques, share sources of traditional materials, and teach others these beautiful art forms.