Artist Kelly Weatherby, left, and Danielle Armstrong, City of Whitehorse community engagement coordinator, pose for a photo with fabric. The City of Whitehorse has started its community weaving project, an effort that will eventually see a new piece of artwork displayed in the Canada Games Centre with material that shares the stories and memories of residents. (Submitted)

Artist Kelly Weatherby, left, and Danielle Armstrong, City of Whitehorse community engagement coordinator, pose for a photo with fabric. The City of Whitehorse has started its community weaving project, an effort that will eventually see a new piece of artwork displayed in the Canada Games Centre with material that shares the stories and memories of residents. (Submitted)

Weaving a community together

Project will incorporate stories, history and weaving

At a time when gatherings can’t happen as they once did, a weaving project stands to bring the community together in a new way.

The City of Whitehorse has started its community weaving project, an effort that will eventually see a new piece of artwork displayed in the Canada Games Centre with material that shares the stories and memories of residents. It will be created by many hands that share in the effort.

“Our hope is that by weaving together, we can facilitate a visual representation of connection and interconnection in our community at a time when gatherings are not always possible,” it’s noted on the city website.

The city began the project Jan. 15 with a call for materials that will continue until Feb. 7. Residents are asked to contribute old clothes and leftover fabric that may have significant meaning for them. Donations should be pre-washed and pre-cut into two-inch wide strips in a bag that can be dropped off at the CGC or the Itsy-Bitsy Yarn Store downtown with a personal story about what the fabric means for the person making the donation. The stories related to the fabric will be shared throughout the project as well as part of the display when its finished.

Beginning Jan. 31, those hoping to be part of the weaving work will have a chance to view the 15-minute time slots available for individuals to come in and do their part for the larger project. Registration to sign up for a time slot will begin Feb. 7 with day and evening periods available between March 7 and 13 for the weaving work.

In a Jan. 28 interview, Danielle Armstrong, the community engagement coordinator for the City of Whitehorse, said she was pleased when artist Kelly Weatherby, who also does macramé workshops, brought the concept forward as a potential recreational offering last summer. The city plans its recreation programs months in advance.

Asked why she decided to pursue it as an offering in the recreation programs, Armstrong commented there are “so many reasons.”

She said that often when it comes to community events, people think about sports and social activities, though arts and culture are “such a big part of the community.”

This project provides an opportunity for the entire community to be part of a large arts and culture project that will be displayed in the Canada Games Centre.

That it comes at a time when people are unable to gather as they have in the past is “such a good feeling,” Armstrong said, noting it’s a project that provides an opportunity for anyone to be part of something bigger.

After looking at other communities that have done similar projects, she said she is looking forward to reading the stories that accompany the materials donated. A display featuring the stories, each with a small piece of the material attached, will accompany the larger woven artwork. In other communities, she said the stories attached to the material share everything from the significance of the material (a beloved family member’s old sweater, for example) to memories of the community itself. In many cases, elders and seniors have participated and recalled various parts of the town or city growing from just a few homes to the larger community it is today.

She said it seems that many people are anxious to get back to more recreation programming (some of which is offered in smaller group formats now) and this provides a safe opportunity for residents to be part of a larger community project. The weaving will be done with individuals coming in 15-minute time slots to do their part with an individual bag of material provided and just a couple of CGC staff on-hand to answer questions, ensuring the project meets all COVID regulations.

The project is designed for anyone, regardless of their experience.

“It doesn’t take skill,” Armstrong said. “There’s no right or wrong way.”

As Weatherby, who is the artist-in-charge on the project, said in a statement: “I would like for the pieces to encourage people who may not consider themself ‘creative’ or ‘artistic’ to explore different art forms. Working with your hands in this way can be extremely therapeutic and part of my vision is for everyone to be able to feel a part of creating something beautiful that they may not have had the interest or courage to attempt on their own.”

Time slots will be available for both weaving and macramé for the project, though Armstrong said it’s recommended those signing up for macramé have some previous experience. There will be staff on-hand to assist in both weaving and macramé.

Armstrong said that while the city has set times for both styles of work, if there is more demand for either weaving or macramé the schedule may be adjusted to suit demand.

This marks the first time the city has done such a project, with most community events that happened pre-COVID being things like skating parties, barbecues and other such social activities.

In this case, outside of it being a woven piece of artwork, it’s impossible to know what the finished product will look like.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Armstrong said. “However it turns out, it’s going to brighten up our facility. It’s going to be amazing.”

Project details are available through the city’s website.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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