Fabric installation to transform Sioux City Art Center
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Fabric installation to transform Sioux City Art Center

Aug 08, 2023

Martha Widjaja, left, and Chello Sherman, right, talk about their artwork and discuss the work they will show at this year’s ArtSplash.

SIOUX CITY — Next year, the Sioux City Art Center's rotunda will be transformed into a giant kaleidoscope, when Amanda Browder covers it in brightly-colored cotton fabric.

Other portions of the downtown building and adjacent Gilchrist Learning Center will also be draped in vibrant hues for two months in celebration of ArtSplash's 30th anniversary. The installation is being funded by grants, including one from the National Endowment for the Arts.

"I want to catch people's eye as they're driving past or walking," Browder, a large-scale fabric installation artist, said Tuesday during a site visit to the Art Center.

Browder, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, has covered roughly 25 buildings all over the world. The public plays a vital role in her temporary public art installations. Community members donate fabric for the installations and also lend their hands to sew it together. While they are sewing, Browder listens to their stories. She estimated that she has sown with 5,000 volunteers over the last 12 to 15 years.

"I try to collect as many kinds of conversational stories about fabric, how people relate to sewing, and it goes with the piece at the end, which is really great," she said.

Large-scale installation artist Amanda Browder's proposal for the Sioux City Art Center is shown. The downtown building and adjacent Gilchrist Learning Center will be draped in brightly-colored cotton fabric for two months in 2024.

The sewing process will begin Sept. 2 and 3, during the 29th ArtSplash on the Art Center's campus. Development Coordinator Erin Webber-Dreeszen said a tent with four sewing machines will be open during the annual art festival.

"As we have that fabric coming in, we will start to pin and sew at ArtSplash. We will be bringing people in off the literal streets of ArtSplash and inviting them to sit down and throw some stitches out," she said.

One doesn't need to have any sewing experience to participate. In fact, Browder will teach you how. Various "sewing days" are also being planned in different parts of the city next year.

"It's a multi-generational thing. It isn't a gender-based thing. It can feel female-forward," Webber-Dreeszen said of sewing. "We don't want it to feel that way."

"Metropolis Sunrise," an installation by Amanda Browder at ArtsWestchester in White Plains, New York

Browder said it can be "really empowering" to go from making quilts and baby blankets to covering a building.

"It's literally the same action," said Browder, who said she has to remind people to call her work an art installation, rather than a quilt.

Sioux City Art Center Curator Christopher Atkins has known about Browder's installations for many years. But it wasn't until Browder created a large-scale installation in Atkins' hometown of St. Charles, Illinois, that he really delved into how such a project comes to a city and how the community can benefit from it.

"Everything from how she works with people to donate the fabrics, really puts an emphasis on the people who make the work being front and center, how her pieces have people look at these structures in, perhaps, a fresh way, is really inspiring," Atkins said.

Amanda Browder, a large-scale fabric installation artist, has covered buildings all over the world in fabric. Next year, she will transform the Sioux City Art Center with the public's help.

Webber-Dreeszen believes Browder's large-scale fabric installation at the Art Center will be something people will be talking about for quite some time. Such was the case with Twigamore, a 30-foot tall tree-branch sculpture created by artist Patrick Dougherty.

Twigamore went up in 2005 on the Art Center's lawn, along Nebraska Street, and stood for two years. After the sculpture collapsed to the ground in May 2007, it was disassembled.

"People talk about it still," Webber-Dreeszen said of Twigamore. "So, this will be that."

Browder is excited about using a donation of old flour sack fabric for the installation at the Art Center. She said people interested in donating fabric can contact her on her website, amandabrowder.com, or call the Art Center, 712-279-6272.

Browder is seeking very brightly-colored cotton fabric, which isn't clothing or stretchy. She said both pattern and solid color fabrics more than 1 square foot in size are ideal.

"The rainbow plus black -- that's what we want. So, whites and tans and grays, those are already outside. You need something that's going to contrast the environment," she said. "Honestly, we're just excited to see what people are interested in donating, because the stories are so great."

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