From an early age, fairy tales enter our lives and shape our view of the world. The classics like “Cinderella,” “Rapunzel” and “Beauty and the Beast” help to build literacy and expand our imagination. But young children aren’t the only…
‘Active Repair’ Exhibition Launches
Organized around the theme of “repair,” the School of Information Studies (iSchool) and Humanities Center are excited to announce, in conjunction with the Syracuse Symposium, “Active Repair: Works from the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA),” running now through Friday, Feb. 17, 2023.
iSchool associate professor Rachel Ivy Clarke sees SJSA as a perfect fit for this year’s symposium because of the way it combines art and activism in an environment carefully designed to create positive social change.
“When I think of repair, I immediately think of textiles, like sewing torn seams or darning socks” says Clarke. “SJSA shows us that textile arts can repair more than clothing—they can also work toward repairing injustices in our society. The City of Syracuse consistently has some of the highest rates of poverty, segregation and redlining in the country. Efforts to repair these issues continue to be stalled in legal bureaucracy instead of moving forward toward reparative justice. We need to harness all the ways we can use our voices, talents and skills to communicate information about these issues, from formal data-driven reports to emotionally resonant art, if we want to have real change.”
SJSA’s founder Sara Trail has been an artist, activist and entrepreneur since an early age. She first started sewing at 4 years old and in her early teens she had already written a nationally published sewing book, was featured in a series of sewing videos and had designed two of her own textile patterns. After earning an undergraduate degree at University of California, Berkeley, and completing a graduate program in education at Harvard, Trail founded SJSA to get youths involved in art projects that engage and educate their communities.
Trail concedes that sewing and similar skills are being lost in younger generations. Relevant coursework (i.e., home economics) has been cut from many secondary schools, the cost of materials is prohibitive in many cases and fewer young people are exposed to textiles as a legitimate and modern art form. Aside from the expression of art and opportunity to actively pursue social justice, SJSA workshops also teach the skills necessary to sew, mend, darn and embroider.
“The goal is to create an intentional brave space to give people the opportunity to have their voices heard through textile art. They can talk about issues from Syracuse to New York as a state, to a critique of America as a whole. What is going well, what is getting better, and how can we all participate in being socially active citizens” says Trail.
Having taken this workshop all around the country, Trail has heard about a variety of social issues affecting communities. Sometimes they overlap, but sometimes they are local/regional problems. No matter what issues come up, Trail is prepared to tackle them through her thoughtfully constructed exhibitions and workshops.
A self-proclaimed “artivist,” Trail explains her professional identity as “a hybrid of artist, activist and educator—and more than that, a forever student. I’m always learning. As much as I go and facilitate conversations, I leave the space learning as much as I bring into the space, because other people’s lived experiences and narratives are so important.”
Her approach to educating and her hunger for learning are evident in the way she runs her workshops. Wherever she is working, Trail leans on the community to deeply explore the issues they face. She intentionally creates room for community members to express themselves and encourages their agency and participation to help lead and guide the scaffolded discussions. After all, they are the experts on their own lives.
Join SJSA, Syracuse University and the greater Syracuse community to explore topics that affect us all. There will be deeply meaningful conversations, opportunities to raise important social issues and at the end, a commemorative art piece built collaboratively by the community. Come for the art, stay for the activism!