CVPA faculty and students bring history of New Bedford’s textile industry to Chicago art fair

‘Weaving with Light’ enticing visitors to experience textile production firsthand at SOFA CHICAGO

The exhibit is highly interactive, enticing the visitor to participate in the actual production of cloth and drawing his or her attention to the making process used by contemporary fiber artists.

For the second year in a row UMass Dartmouth’s College of Visual & Performing Arts (CVPA) faculty and students are presenting at SOFA CHICAGO, a premier art fair in Chicago dedicated to Sculpture, Objects and Functional Art (SOFA) November 5-8, at Chicago’s landmark Navy Pier. UMass Dartmouth’s installation for the prestigious art exhibition this year once again pays tribute to the nearby city of New Bedford.

This year a student group is working on a tribute to New Bedford’s textile industry with the exhibit Weaving with Light. The group is being advised by Artisanry Professor James Lawton with assistance from Charlotte Hamlin, who serves as CVPA’s coordinator for graduate studies and research.

“Every step of the process has involved the discovery and problem solving aspects of design and making and realizing the full potential of the project through innovative methods, research and observation, material sourcing and testing, and overarching aesthetic decisions,” Professor Hamlin said. “The students have extended themselves in both their intellectual and physical stamina.”


Working on the Weaving with Light installation includes MFA Ceramics student Hanna Vogel, MFA Graphic Design student Kate Dickinson, MFA Wood/Furniture Design student John Middleton, MFA Digital Media student Alec Andersen, and BFA Textile Design/Fiber Arts student Tony Beal. The exhibit is highly interactive, enticing the visitor to participate in the actual production of cloth and drawing his or her attention to the making process used by contemporary fiber artists. Within the exhibit, several operational single-person looms are arranged in a semicircle facing the wall at the opposite side of the 24 by 24-foot space.

“Creating an interactive environment to engage visitors at our SOFA Connect booth has been a great challenge on many levels, particularly in the design and fabrication, which the students have experienced making hundreds of decisions in anticipation of how it might function as a working and experiential space,” Professor Lawton said. “I imagine all the competing schools are asking how this will play out at the Navy Pier.”

The warp yarns that feed each loom rise from the front of the loom to a rattle gathering at the top of the wall. The ascending yarns create the illusion of an enclosed space or an angled ceiling. This serves to visually enclose those inside the exhibit and physically contain them within the environment of the space.   Opposite the looms, vintage still photos of mill buildings, interiors, and workers are projected on the wall to illustrate some of the actual operations and conditions of historic mill life.

In 2014 faculty and students worked on the City of Light. The installation was inspired by New Bedford's historic past, reimagining city's whale oil lit street lamps and homes in the SouthCoast.


UMass Dartmouth is one of six entries selected for prestigious university art exhibition in Chicago, including Illinois Institute of Technology, Pratt Institute, San Diego State University, University of Cincinnati, and University of Iowa. SOFA CHICAGO ranked #7 in the USA TodayReader’s Choice 10 Best Art Events. During the past two decades, SOFA CHICAGO has grown to attract more than 35,000 visitors every year and exhibitors from the U.S. and around the world. Founded in 1994, SOFA CHICAGO is Chicago’s longest continuously running art fair and the world’s foremost fair dedicated to masterworks of contemporary art and design in all media.

UMass Dartmouth distinguishes itself as a vibrant public university actively engaged in personalized teaching and innovative research, and acting as an intellectual catalyst for regional economic, social, and cultural development. UMass Dartmouth's mandate to serve its community is realized through countless partnerships, programs, and other outreach efforts to engage the community, and apply its knowledge to help address local issues and empower others to facilitate change for all.

College of Visual and Performing Arts, Research