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Weaving together a community: ValleyCAST exhibition blends the past and the present

July 2023

Read the original article on Telegram & Gazette

WHITINSVILLE — A handcraft from yesteryear meets modern day in a new exhibit, “Weaving Community,” now on display at the Spaulding R. Aldrich Heritage Gallery at Alternatives’ Whitin Mill.

Presented by ValleyCAST, the arts and culture arm of Open Sky Community Services, the exhibit opened on June 29, in conjunction with the organization’s summer concert series, and features work from numerous weavers and businesses.

“It’s about the weaving community and how people come together,” Director of Community Outreach Cristi Collari said about the exhibit, which is free and open to the public through Sept. 30.

Collari, who is charge of the rotating gallery exhibits, said this particular idea had been in the works for about a year and a half, after she viewed a weaving display at Worcester State University. She thought it would be a perfect accompaniment to the looms in storage at ValleyCAST that were once used for classes. She began reaching out to artists, including Jeri Golovin Gillin, who had a weaving piece hanging in the Worcester State display.

Gillin makes wall hangings, scarves and shawls and kitchen textiles inspired by the Maine landscape and is one of several artists from the SAORI Worcester studio featured in the “Weaving Community” exhibit. The studio specializes in the SAORI technique, a specialized contemporary style that was developed in Japan and focuses more on improvisation.

“I liked the philosophy of SAORI weaving,” said SAORI Worcester owner Mihoko Wakabayashi, explaining that it does not really follow a pattern and is more “in the moment.”

Born and raised in Japan, Wakabayashi has been weaving for about 30 years. She learned the craft by working with young students in that country who had difficulties in school. In Japan through special education programs, the art of SAORI particularly includes people with physical and developmental disabilities.

After studying the SAORI method, Wakabayashi opened her studio — the first of its kind in the United States – in 2000 in Worcester. In addition to offering classes and workshops, she hosts numerous exhibits and participates in community events such as stART on the Street. She also developed the SAORI Bridge Project, a banner installation that was on display at Elm Park for two months in 2021 and was funded by The Greater Worcester Community Foundation.


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