Kente in Kensington

First school class ex­hib­it opens at The Re­source Ex­change.

  • Students Phoebe Clouser, Charlotte Duckworth, and Lily Shemtov pose with their kente-inspired artwork. CHRISTOPHER SEAMANS / STAR PHOTO

  • Kente-inspired artworks in a wild array of colors are showcased at the Resource Exchange exhibit. CHRISTOPHER SEAMANS / STAR PHOTO

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

comments powered by Disqus