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National art exhibit comes to Morris

The Embroiderers’ Guild of America* (EGA) is bringing 70 of the finest pieces of needlework from all over the nation to the Stevens County Historical Society and Museum (SCHS). “Come, and expect to be surprised,” said Society Executive Director Randee Hokanson, adding, “The exhibit will include pieces done by artists from all over the United States, the only such exhibit to be offered anywhere in the United States during 2015.”

Through the Needle’s Eye is the 20th national exhibit for the EGA. The SCHS will host an assortment of events, presenters, displays and classes during the two-month-long opportunity to experience art in the form of needlework, fibers, beading, painting, hand-stitching, machine-stitching and more. Hokanson explained, “Artist work comes from all over the United States. That being said, it isn’t where they come from, but the uniqueness of the show itself, and the variety of beauty that it brings, that is fascinating. You don’t have to be a stitcher, or an artist yourself, to see and feel the wonder of this art.”

Although this is a national exhibit, there is  local flare included. Karla Voorhees Overland, a nationally known fiber artist, will be a guest presenter and an exhibitor. Karla, who grew up in Morris and currently resides in Brainerd where she co-owns a fabric store, will talk about her Wicked Challenge exhibit on Saturday, Feb. 14 at 11 a.m.

Wicked has been called one the best musicals of the decade on Broadway in New York City, and Karla challenged artists from all over the United States to use special hand-dyed fabrics in the “wicked greens” and black to make a 20-inch square quilt. The 27 finalists’ collection was hung in several locations, including Broadway, at the Gershwin Theatre where Wicked is playing. During the EGA Through the Needle’s Eye exhibit, the entire collection of the Wicked Challenge will be on display in Morris at the SCHS (Feb. 2 – 15) before going to other locations in a national tour, including California, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

Fantastic Fibers, a Stevens County juried art show, will also be on display at the SCHS during the winter months. This exhibit showcases local artists and their unique pieces of needlework. Some items are for sale. Another point of interest during the exhibit will be the Fiber Fondling Box which, laughs Hokanson, allows visitors to get the feel of fibers used in artwork. “Visitors will be tempted!” She explained, “We offer this feature because visitors cannot touch the showcase items, but the Fiber Fondling Box allows all to experience the ‘feel’ of different fiber pieces. Remember, the five senses of sight, hearing, taste, sound and touch. All will be provided.”

In addition to highlighting national and regional artists, the SCHS will showcase local talent with a surprise exhibit. The Fabric Challenge will show local artist renditions of using a fabric piece and how each artist uniquely designed artwork using a piece taken from one specific fabric bolt.

Another program, Eye of the Tornado, by Barbara McPhee, will be presented on Feb. 8, focusing on how a group of people created a needlework piece to begin the healing process after a tornado destroyed 20 percent of their town. They designed and created a piece of embroidery, 115 inches by 48 inches that illustrates the aftermath of the storm and how citizens coped.

“We bring these exhibits and opportunities to the area because the art depicts an era, or a story, that explains history. We are providing a virtual bevy of interesting activities…to experience needle work (and other mediums of art) and its many purposes and uses,” Hokanson explained, adding, “All of this art started with ‘an idea and a vision’ and yet it points out history and in some cases, the evolution of our landscape. It’s inspiring, we want people to see the wow, the unexpected, to say, ‘I could’ve done that!’ and walk away inspired.

*The Embroiders’ Guild of America (national exhibit mission statement) acknowledges the value of needlework in art and history. The national exhibit is a representative selection of the best in artistic and technical works. It is through the needle’s eye that EGA embraces both traditional and contemporary needlework while expanding the perception of embroidery as an art form.

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