The Resource Exchange is most well-known for reclaiming materials that would otherwise end up in landfills and selling them to artists, crafters, and others to reuse them in their own projects. The center carries everything from postcards and bottle caps to lighting fixtures and lumber.
Every month, they also display the work of a new artist in their reCreate gallery space.
This month, however, they’ve decided to try something different. The exhibit that opened last Saturday doesn’t just showcase the work of one artist, it showcases the work of a whole classroom full — the seventh grade class of St. Peter’s School (319 Lombard St.) to be exact.
The fifteen students produced colorful textile works inspired by kente cloth, a type of fabric woven in bold and colorful geometric patterns by the Akan people of Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Once a sacred cloth worn only by royalty, the material has become more widespread over the centuries.
Art teacher Marie Darling, who supervised the project, said, “We went to the Creative Africa exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Penn Museum also brought stuff. We saw African-American art, we saw masks, and we also saw kente cloths. I really wanted to do an art lesson to talk about basic patterns. Kente cloths would be woven, but not having a giant loom, I figured the best way of doing it would be with printmaking and coming up with those basic patterns through that.”
The students carved patterns into rubber plates of varying sizes to make their own stamps, which they used to print a multi-colored design on fabric Darling purchased at the Resource Exchange.
Much of the focus was on the principles and elements of design, especially how more intricate works could be built using simple building blocks, which Darling said will definitely carry over to future projects.
It wasn’t just about the design elements, though.
“They learn about different cultures in their history class,” Darling said. “They talked about ancient civilizations in Africa, talked about the geography, and then it tied in with Black History Month. It gave us a chance to look at this African art and see how it’s still prevalent in their culture now.”
Some of the students had their own goals.
“I really wanted to blend the colors together,” said Phoebe Clouser, “and I wanted to make it fade a little bit.”
For Charlotte Duckworth, it was about incorporating the colors of the season — Halloween — when they worked on the project.
Lily Shemtov enjoyed working with the African patterns, and she tried to bring the colors she saw in the Kente cloths to her piece.
All three agreed that the project was a lot of fun to work on.
“It’s really cool,” Duckworth said of seeing her work on display, “but we’ve seen them throughout the weeks at school, so we’re used to it.”
Darling, who lives in the neighborhood and frequently shops at the Resource Exchange, contacted the organization to see if they would be interested in hosting a show for her students.
Executive Director Karyn Gerred jumped at the chance — and it wasn’t just because Darling bought her cloth for the project at the store, either.
ldquo;I loved the idea, because we’ve been trying to expand the boundaries of what it means for us to have these featured artists,” Gerred said. “We’ve done individual artists, we’ve branched out and we’ve had theatre groups, but we’ve never had a classroom featured as a group show before. We thought it was a great idea.”
At the Resource Exchange’s old Port Richmond location, they didn’t have the space to do it. Now they do, and they intend to host more in the future.
“I’m sure now that we’ve done this, we’ll do more, because we have so many students in so many different age ranges. These are seventh-graders, but we have a lot of Tyler students who come here. The springboard for this now, we thought, ‘Oh, it would be great to do a group show with some of the students from Tyler, and high school students.’ So many students use this as a resource that it seems kind of like a no brainer to do some group shows