When the Cleveland Institute of Art decided to close its George Gund Building and unify its campus under one roof, some downsizing was inevitable. Despite an impressive expansion and extensive renovations to its Joseph McCulough Center for the Visual Arts, there simply was not as much space. When CIA adjunct faculty Jessica Pinsky learned that that the Fiber + Material Studies department would be downsized and combined with the CIA's Sculpture + Expanded Media department, she felt compelled to do something.
Fast forward many months later and the result is Praxis Fiber Workshop, the newest nonprofit arts organization to join Collinwood's Waterloo Arts District. Opening to the public this Saturday, Praxis will offer members and CIA students 24/7 access to 7,000 square feet of studio and gallery space, including 30 floor looms (17 donated by CIA), a full dye lab, exhibition space and individual studio spaces available for rent.
"Building owners Erika and Cesare Ruggeri have remodeled our stunning 7,000-square-foot space on Waterloo Road to include a gorgeous 1,000-square-foot gallery, commercial dye lab, weaving lab, classroom space, library and five individual studios available for rental," explains Pinsky, Praxis Fiber Workshop's executive director. "This is a really exciting time for myself and the fiber arts community. As a technical specialist in the fiber department, and an adjunct faculty member at CIA, I wanted to preserve the fiber tradition CIA has upheld for decades. The proposal was met with enthusiasm and I set out to find a perfect location. There are many wonderful arts neighborhoods in Cleveland, but I was struck by the contagious and emerging energy in the Waterloo Arts District in North Collinwood."
Praxis Fiber Workshop joins a growing list of nonprofit arts organizations in Waterloo, including, most recently, Brick Ceramic + Design Studio and Zygote Press' Ink House (both of which have ties to Cleveland Institute of Art).
"We are so excited to have this connection to CIA and to carry on the tradition the fiber department has upheld for decades and to create a bridge for the students to such a strong and exciting arts district in Cleveland," she says. "To be a part of the exciting and contagious energy in Collinwood is at the heart of this for me. The opportunity to use this equipment to create larger community connections and to access a larger demographic feels like a perfect fit. We are so proud to continue the amazing hard work of existing arts organizations in the neighborhood and to be creating momentum with other new businesses. Outreach is a big part of the Praxis mission as everyone has associations to textiles which naturally lead to collaboration and community."
We can't go a single day of our lives without interacting with textiles in some way. Despite this intimate connection, most of us do not spend a lot of time thinking about where it all originates.
"From the clothes we wear to the sheets and blankets we sleep under, fiber is a huge part of our lives, and people of any age or background, regardless of artistic experience, can access the processes involved to make these everyday items and begin to imagine their own possibilities," she says.
Soon, Praxis will be offering classes to the public on fiber dying and weaving. All materials will be included in the cost of classes. Membership alternatives include a per-class option, monthly memberships and open public studio time for independent work. For a complete list of current classes, visit praxisfiberworkshop.org.
"We have a truly exciting line-up of classes and workshops beginning in mid-June," she says. "Saturday workshops are perfect for those who would like a smaller taste and evening classes are available in four-week sessions with courses such as intro to weaving, felting, fabric dyeing and sewing. We also have a kids camp for grades 1 through 6, running on July 20 to 24." (The full class schedule is listed online.)
During this Friday's Walk All Over Waterloo event, Praxis will celebrate with a private ribbon-cutting ceremony and party; the gallery open to the public from 6-8 p.m. The community is invited to return for a grand opening celebration on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 pm. The event features tours of the space, interactive opportunities to test out the equipment, live music and refreshments.
If you're on Waterloo this Friday, be sure to check out the many other events taking place, like the 2015 Waterloo Arts Fest National Juried Exhibition, featuring 35 works by 33 artists, at Waterloo Arts; Gallery One Sixty's opening reception for STIV 1976: Lost Photographs of Stiv Bator & The Dead Boys; or several new exhibitions at Loren Naji's Satellite Gallery.