Open Studio: Arts Street Textile Studio

story by Dana HenryIt’s tempting to lump Art Street Textile Studio in with the current wave of DIY, sustainably-minded manufacturing. Handmade goods are produced using donated and repurposed fabrics, and you can see local flavor in the colorful array of hand-knit scarves, tapestries and holiday ornaments.
 But there’s something else going on here: At this community workspace, most of the faithful weavers aren’t graduates of esteemed art colleges or locals that grew up in the textile trade—they’re residents of the city’s homeless shelters.
The studio began as Finding Home, a woven mural at 13th and Ludlow organized by Mural Arts that engaged hundreds of homeless in the weaving process. It has since been continued in shelters, libraries and parks. In September 2010, founders and seasoned textile artists, Kathryn Pannepacker and Leslie Sudock, moved the project to a rent-free space on South Street as part of the Arts on South revitalization program. They host $1 drop-in sessions, offering participants the opportunity to take informal lessons and produce goods. Those pieces are then are sold, with a 50/50 profit split. One active member, Rob, a Ridge Avenue Shelter resident, stays throughout open hours, making coffee, assisting with cleaning, demonstrating how to use a loom and advancing his craft.
While expanding their outreach in local shelters, Pannepacker and Sudock are discovering the vital connection between citizens and businesses—they offer their goods for purchase to local stores, places of faith and socially-minded organizations. “Selling a scarf here and there is great,” says Pannepacker. “But there’s got to be a greater match between folks that don’t have work and need work—and can learn a skill—and individuals, families, communities and businesses that can make a difference in a concrete way.”

Arts Street Textile Studio (626 South St.) is open 3 – 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, staffed entirely by unpaid volunteers. To get involved, contact Kathryn Pannepacker (Kpannepacker@gmail.com) and Leslie Sudock (lsudock@gmail.com).