On the corner of Colombia and East Hastings, where people who walk the streets are often observed with accusing eyes and where people who legitimately need help can be overlooked and ignored, Goonies Art Space has recently presented the area with an opportunity for fellowship—the chance to take part in a project and make something beautiful. Without a trace of discrimination, intolerance or ridicule, the people at Goonies have taken a simple step toward strengthening a community and helping people to find hope, self worth and meaning. Empowerment through acceptance is at the crux of this effort and it is as simple as weaving on a loom.
“I thought it was a really neat idea. I was really into the fact that it was so collaborative and nonthreatening in the sense that anyone can participate in the weaving,” Merida Anderson, operator and director of Goonies, explained. She immediately saw the potential for this innovative and artistic concept to foster a community-building atmosphere when a friend forwarded her the proposal to bring A Room-A Loom to Vancouver.
The project is the work of Julia Sherman. Currently residing in Los Angeles, Sherman is the director and founder of Workspace, an arts/performance space there. Sherman took her love of weaving and developed the idea. Taking appointments and extending invitations within her community, Sherman encouraged artists and art enthusiasts to gather the material of their choice and contribute in the weaving of a collaborative textile. The loom itself spanned the entire gallery, giving those involved the sense that they are in the art piece as well as part of the project. Sherman’s vision is currently being adopted by artists in spaces and galleries across North America and will culminate in a group show of the finished pieces from the various participating spaces. On her website, Sherman noted that her work “must be understood as performance and is often translated through elaborate installations.” The project incorporates and reflects these qualities of collaborative and constructive exhibition.
The influence of A Room-A Loom and its benefit to participants goes beyond art and creativity—a point that was not lost on Anderson. “I think I was most attracted to the idea because of where Goonies is located. I don’t want to be alienating to the community here. I want Goonies to be a part of it. So having something in here going on that is simple to teach and is so interactive and inviting, I think, is a really great idea.”
Anderson recognized the importance of having a communal activity like this to reach out to neighbours that many business owners might be quick to shun. While artists, exhibits and projects of this nature can often be perceived as being self-serving, elitist and egocentric, A Room-A Loom could not be less so. The two most important requirements are participation and imagination. With each new addition to the loom, whether it be pom-poms, bubble wrap, computer cables or dog fur, it is obvious that something beautiful and noteworthy is being created.
Out of such a simple and easy-to-learn project comes many rewards. “It is what it is. I just like that people can come out and be involved and be a part of something fun,” Sherman said, explaing the feeling of accomplishment participants experience.
“The response has been great. Even those people who come in and are hesitant do eventually really get into it. It’s been the first time I have gotten people who live down here to come in and take part,” Anderson said.
Now completed, A Room-A Loom will provide Goonies with a unique piece of art to exhibit. More importantly, this collaborative project has shown that there are beautiful rewards to be gained when you treat your neighbours with decency and openness.