World Weavers Project Kicks Off at Stone Academy

By Bill Eller, Teaching Artist

As a long-time teaching artist, I am always excited to participate in truly innovative school programs with potential for strong impact on students. I’m contributing to this blog to talk about an exciting new two-year Urban Gateways pilot residency titled the World Weavers Project. The program is being conducted out at Stone Elementary Scholastic Academy, a Chicago Public School. The idea for this program is based on a project I worked on over 25 years ago through Art Resources in Teaching. This fabulous program wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of the King Family Foundation and Armen and Carnig Minasian of Minasian Rug Company in Evanston.

On October 2 we kicked off the program with a family night at Stone Academy. Eric Delli Bovi (Urban Gateways’ Executive Director), Carnig Minasian, and myself briefly talked to the audience in the auditorium. Then everyone headed to the gymnasium, where the Minasians had filled the space with over a dozen rugs of all sizes from different parts of the world. Students and their families got a chance to see and touch the carpets up close and ask questions of the Minasian brothers. There was even a gentleman from Iran who was working on a small loom and tying knots so students could see how the rugs had been made. Students and their families also enjoyed a performance by Urban Gateways touring group Edgar Gabriel’s StringFusion, with the special addition of a tabla player (the tabla is a traditional Indian instrument).

My residency started last Tuesday, October 14. I am working with two 6th grade classrooms. For any teaching artist who may be reading, the classrooms are large with 32 students in each class. We discussed ideas about rugs, the elements of art, and principles of design. Students won’t be making rugs, but will be designing ideas for rugs. This upcoming December an outside jury will pick one of the student rug designs, which will then be sent to Afghanistan to be hand-made into a 6 foot by 4 foot rug that will be given to the school next October. During this first year of the program, rug ideas will be strictly created from patterns and designs. Next year the same students will be creating rugs that have narratives incorporated into their designs, showing them how it’s possible to tell a story through textile arts.

My second session was Thursday, October 16. Students made their first simple symmetrical designs using stripes only. We talked about how some Palestinian, Bedouin, and Navaho rugs only use stripes in their designs. Class time is short, only 45 minutes, so being able to plan, create and complete a design in 45 minutes was one of the challenges for the students. All were able to complete a color construction paper design during the class. Students were amazed at how much variety there was in their designs.

Stop by soon for more updates from Bill on the World Weavers Project! Meanwhile, check out additional photos from the kick-off event and the residency:

Urban Gateways thanks the following sponsors for making this program possible:

The King Family Foundation