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This April, WAM will host its 9th annual design showcase in collaboration with the University of Minnesota’s College of Design. Utilizing non-traditional materials and technology, emerging student designers will create ready-for-the-runway garments that explore the conceptual and material dimensions of protection, and what that means in contemporary life. Presented in conversation with the exhibition Harriet Bart: Abracadabra and Other Forms of Protection.

Protection has been defined as “the process of keeping (something or someone) safe.” For artist Harriet Bart, the meaning of protection is rooted in her childhood memories of cloth. When she was 7 or 8 her mother taught her to embroider and knit—traditional domestic arts. When she was 11, she learned to make her own clothes. “I felt at home with cloth,” she recalls. Making garments in “a quiet space, with just the hum of the sewing machine for company,” Bart gained appreciation for the materiality of things. She began to think of this practice in artistic terms when she saw the landmark 1971 UCLA Art Galleries exhibition, Deliberate Entanglements. The exhibition challenged associations between fiber and craft, charting a sculptural, conceptual, and experimental direction for the medium. 

After studying with pioneers in the fiber arts field—including Josep Grau-Garriga—Bart developed an artistic practice that evolved across media to explore, among other things, art’s capacity to sensitize viewers to histories we might otherwise forget. Although she moved away from working strictly in fiber in the late 1970s, she remained engaged with its history and materiality, creating several large-scale installations that pay tribute to the garment and its maker. Bart often claims the garment as a source of protection, reminding people that it is the thing in which we are swaddled at birth and shrouded in death.


Free for UMN students, $25.00 for the public. Tickets will be released on March 2. WAM members enjoy early access to tickets. Not a member yet? It’s free to join! Sign up now >>


Image: A scene from the 2019 Between the Seams Student Design Showcase. Photograph by Jayme Halbritter.