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Common Threads: Exploring Community Through Embroidery

What is community? What are the various communities to which one person can belong? And how can we form our own communities to ensure everyone has an equal voice? These were just a few of the question explored in the first in a yearlong series of Drop In Story Labs, free for low-income participants, part of Venice Arts' new adult media arts storytelling initiative, the Community Story Lab. Artists Michelle Glass and Andrea Dominguez led the brainstorming session with a group of eight participants who shared their own definitions and examples of the word community. Some of the definitions included: sharing goals, ideas, a place to gather socially, family, religion, nationality, ethnicity, organizations, and interests.

Says Lead Artist Michelle Glass, "Participants in the Community Story Lab workshop trusted us to lead them through a day of exploration and were so open to trying something new. Although their skill levels varied -- some felt comfortable navigating through the web to collect images, transferring their images onto iron on material, or embroidering onto images transferred onto fabric -- everyone learned new skills. I got the sense that many of them wanted an opportunity to connect with one another as they assisted each other by being able to offer support and to receive support from their peers. In our sewing circle, we shared ideas, told stories, and got an opportunity to learn more about each other and our backgrounds. Through this process we discovered our commonalities and differences. It was inspiring to see them go through the process and become a community where they supported each other."

Participants were asked to create photographic works based on these shared ideas using found photography and embroidery. Michelle and Andrea guided the participants through the steps: online image searching, transferring the images on to fabric using iron on transfers, and embroidering. As we sat in the circle completing our work, we discussed these concepts further and pinpointed our "Common Threads," and in turn, developed our own little Sunday Community.

What defines your community? Be part of the conversation and tell us your response here.

Interested in upcoming Drop in Story Labs? Please email Meg if you are interested in learning more or have questions about the Drop in Labs. You can RSVP for the July 13 Lab
here.

The Community Story Lab is supported by a grant from The James Irvine Foundation.

About the Author

Meg Whiteford is the Gallery & Public Programs Assistant at Venice Arts.

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