Creating art and celebrating community

One of the best things about printmaking is that you can replicate imagery — and it gives you the opportunity to create a collaborative art installation. I did this recently during the Bloomington Open Studios Tour (BOST) when I invited people to print flags. The results look fabulous, and the journey was meaningful as well.

flags two lines
The solar flags are now flying at First United Church, Bloomington, IN.

Creating this project for me linked BOST (where I am the program coordinator) with First United Church, Bloomington, which gives us meeting space for free. First United Church freely gives its facility to efforts such as Head Start, the Interfaith Winter (homeless) Shelter (3 nights each week), the Quarryland Men’s Chorus, a senior food program and countless other groups including recovery groups and two arts organizations. The amount of electricity we use is significant. This spring the congregation (of which I am a member) purchased a solar array that will provide half of the electricity used by the building. I wanted to celebrate the coming of renewable energy that will benefit so many.

flag explanation
Explaining the synergy between art, community and solar energy was a bit complicated.

I explained all this when people came down to my basement studio. They were invited to choose a colored fabric square and sign it like printmakers do in the right corner.

inking flags
Inking up the solar blocks.

Then people had a choice of two solar inspired motifs — a red circular design, or a gold angular design. Each person inked their block, positioned it on the press bed, placed their fabric and cranked the press. It was great fun to see them have their “Aha!” moment as they lifted up their flag.

flags drying
My studio had a very warm glow while these flags were drying.

The flags dried in my studio for over a week, and then I began the process of sewing them together…

gingersnap and the flags
Baskets are even better than catnip for my cat, Gingersnap.

Once I convinced Gingersnap that I really needed the flags, the work began.

laying out the flags
Thankfully the ribbon was on sale, as I needed eight twelve-foot rolls to complete this project.

I purchased twelve foot rolls of orange and yellow ribbons, and laid out nine or ten flags, with an inch between each flag.

very old sewing machine
This sewing machine has the fun feature of shocking you if you don’t put the plug in correctly. Truly I suffer for my art.

Using our sewing machine, which is older than I am, I sewed two rows of stitching with the ribbon in front. Sewing is not my fortè, and this machine had only one speed — fast — so I am grateful that the point of these types of flags is not perfection.

flags along walkway
The flags are now flying over First United, celebrating both the environment and the community.

Eight strings of flags now fly along the covered walkway at First United Church in Bloomington, IN, celebrating both the coming of solar energy to the building this summer, and the value of many different people doing the work that makes a community.

I am so grateful for the people that came to print in my studio, for the people who give of themselves through the programs that First United houses, and for the First United community that is so focused on both the community and the environment.


2 Replies to “Creating art and celebrating community”

    1. Thanks Jane! A nice compliment from a prayer flag expert. When I was looking for instructions on how to assemble the flags, your name was everywhere!

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