Destruction and rehabilitation were themes of the recent three-day Borderless Arts Tennessee “Re-Pair” workshop led by two Middle Tennessee State University faculty members.
Department of Communication Studies master instructor Lori Kissinger and Textiles, Merchandising and Design Program professor Lauren Emery Rudd worked with local students to create handcrafted designs interpreting the effects of Nashville’s 2010 flood and the 2020 Christmas Day bombing.
“We are creating art that reflects what those things did to Nashville, and we are creating art of what happened afterward and the repair of that,” said Kissinger, director of Borderless Arts Tennessee, a statewide nonprofit that offers accessible arts programs for people with disabilities.
With Rudd at the helm, Borderless Arts students spent three days cutting, pasting and sewing fabric in a lab at the Ned R. McWherter Learning Resources Center on the MTSU campus the first week of June.
“They are very artistic, as you can see,” said Rudd, smiling as she looked around the room at the participants who were engrossed in the colorful project.
Art from the “Re-Pair” project will become part of the Frist Art Museum exhibit, “The Power of Resilience,” which will be installed at the Nashville facility in August. It will be on display from Aug. 25 through April 1, 2024, and highlight work of adult artists with disabilities.
Four Middle Tennessee organizations, plus Borderless Arts, are participating in the project: Friends Life Community, Healing Arts Project Inc., Able Voices and Metro Parks disABILITIES.
“There’s one large (artwork) of the destruction and restoration, and they are doing individual pieces, too,” said Kissinger, who started Borderless Arts Tennessee after moving here in 2001.
The format for “Re-Pair” is a collage style based on the renowned artwork of the late William N. Rollins, a native Nashvillian whose Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee endowment funds projects by Borderless Arts.
His sister, board member and artist Ann Krafft, often assists with the nonprofit’s activities.
Before the workshop, Borderless Arts participants met via Zoom to discuss the life-altering events that shaped the project’s theme.
Nashville received more than 13 inches of rainfall May 1-2, 2010, forcing drivers from their banks and devastating areas in Davidson and surrounding counties. The flood killed nearly 20 people and caused over $2 billion in property and infrastructure damage.
A decade later, on Christmas Day 2020, a man detonated an RV filled with explosives on downtown Nashville’s historic Second Avenue, killing himself, injuring eight others and destroying 65 buildings.
“We looked at images and talked about the destruction, then talked about restoration and revitalization. So we have sad pieces and happy pieces,” said Rudd, a quilter and fabric artist who has taught at MTSU nearly 20 years.
Dark colors represented the devastation, while bright fabric leaned toward a cheerful vibe, Rudd explained.
One of student Adam Boyd’s interpretations included a Christmas tree assembled with misshapen swatches of green, red, blue and yellow fabric.
Student Torie Summers said she drew inspiration for her artwork from Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky.
“I’m a big fan,” said Summers as she cut random shapes to use. “He’s very abstract.”
“Re-Pair” is one of many Borderless Arts Tennessee activities where Rudd and Kissinger have joined forces. Their MTSU students have participated in the Borderless Arts projects as part of the university’s Experiential Learning Program, or EXL, and the MT Engage program.
EXL gives students credit for hands-on experience to earn the Scholar of Distinction designation at graduation.
MT Engage is an opt-in program for students who want to develop an ePortfolio to showcase the integration of knowledge, skills and abilities gained through beyond-the-classroom engagement experiences.
Get involved at Borderless Arts
Borderless Arts Tennessee began in 2001 as VSA Tennessee, an affiliate of the parent organization started in 1974 by Jean Kennedy Smith, sister of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver and President John F. Kennedy.
The group’s art has traveled to every continent and even to space. Last summer Rudd spearheaded a project to create Arty the (fabric) Shark, which went for a swim with live sharks with divers at Mote Marine Institute in Sarasota, Florida. Another project is on display in the U.S. State Department.
Anyone with a disability can be a member of Borderless Arts Tennessee’s projects. Events are limited to approximately 10 participants.
To learn more about how to be a part of Borderless Arts Tennessee, whether as a participant or volunteer, visit https://borderlessartstn.org.
— Nancy DeGennaro (Nancy.DeGennaro@mtsu.edu)