We in the Boone, or “Boonies” as we are oft referred to, are officially called “Gallery Facilitators.” This title is particularly fitting for the work we have been doing with the new bojagi project in the Boone Children’s Gallery. Not only do we facilitate art making, but also conversations about art and art making, and the development of new skills and techniques.
Three outcomes of the project have particularly stood out: the level of excitement and enthusiasm, the awe-inspiring creativity of our visitors, and the ways in which people interact with each other and the project itself.
When this project was first proposed, I worried that not enough visitors would be interested in sewing. I could not have been more wrong. We have excitedly witnessed everyone from three-year-old twins to teenage groups of friends and grandfathers actively participate. In fact, the bojagi has allowed those who would not usually participate in the gallery to create something. With the bojagi, there is something for everyone to do in the Boone. In addition to the multitudes of folks coming into the Boone specifically for the bojagi, scores more, who initially come to paint, become interested after seeing the curiously large patchwork textile. After filling them in on the project and explaining what a bojagi is, nearly all visitors become eager to add their piece to what we hope will be the world’s largest recorded bojagi.
We expected the bojagi to be unique and represent all participants, however visitors have surprised us with their unending innovation. Everyone is offered the same sized square of fabric but people have individualized their contributions in unexpected ways. Here’s what they’ve done with their squares:
—Using markers or paint, they have created everything from family portraits to abstract works
—Taking advantage of the many colored threads we have, they have embroidered names, slogans, and designs
—Using scissors they have cut out shapes, sewed them onto another piece of fabric, and stuffed them, creating a three-dimensional work
—With the needle and thread invented new one-of-a-kind stitches
Seeing parents, grandparents, friends, and siblings learning to sew together has been very rewarding. More and more have we seen whole-family interaction. Families speak about the project and to one another in very positive ways and leave feeling proud and excited about having contributed to a large community-driven activity and the new skills they have learned. We have also noticed families staying much longer in the Boone and being more actively engaged; some visitors will sit down and sew for two hours, producing a sizable piece to add on to the bojagi, and others will vacillate back and forth between painting and sewing, sometimes even combining the two. Whereas painting can be a very singular or intuitive process, those who chose to sew are very open to suggestions and learning new techniques from staff and from other visitors.
Just as the bojagi is a community project, a community has been growing around it, including complete strangers, who just happen to be sewing at the same time, striking up conversation and building relationships; a frequent occurrence. Although they are unable to take home what they have created, our visitors rarely take issue with having to leave their work behind, as they know they are contributing to a larger project and are excited about it. There are even many instances in which children want to continue sewing or request to sew at home, to which parents have been receptive and encouraging. In this way, both kids and adults can continue practicing their new found skill and hopefully bond over a shared and continued experience.
This new project has brought us closer with the public and also with each other. We hope to keep building these experiences with you for the duration of the bojagi project and beyond! The last day to contribute to the community bojagi is Monday, June 30, so don’t miss your chance to add this to monumental project!
Amanda Chen, Lead Gallery Facilitator, Boone Children’s Gallery