A few weeks back - the first Thursday in May to be exact - we were fortunate to have Michelle Bishop, the Director of Harlem Needle Arts, come to the store for a presentation. We we were fortunate to first meet Michelle in the "early days", right after Knitty City opened. The following year, 2007, Michelle began to form HNA, which is now a full fledged non-profit organization, dedicated to the preservation of textile, design and needle art of the African Diaspora. As members of the needlework community and as neighbors, we have benefitted from one another's presence in New York.
This quote from Michelle Bishop, sums up the passion that drove (and drives) her forward in her mission:
'Cease the opportunity of the unmet need.'
"That message stared at me as I worked and developed the vision of Harlem Needle Arts some twelve years ago. I knew our history in textiles needed to resonate beyond small pockets of communities. I knew our existence as Africans in the world had centuries of meaning which would influence our contemporary life structure. I knew our stories had depth beyond the small label in a museum or gallery wall. I wanted to revolutionize the way the world saw the art forms of knit, crochet, weaving, spinning, quilting, signs, symbols, fiber fusion as well as manifest a community of cultural stakeholders. HNA has just scratched the surface with our work. The revolution will continue." -Michelle Bishop, Director, Harlem Needle Arts
Harlem Needle Arts provides an invaluable service for those of us who are intrigued by the history of crafts as seen through various cultures. Since 2007, HNA has reached out to educate and inform through art, educational services, lectures and funded projects and events, In addition, as the pool of artists grows, Harlem Needle Arts provides them with professional and technical assistance by sharing knowledge of the "business of art" through resources such as funding, portfolio development, corporate acquisitions exhibitions and publishing opportunities.
A recent example of a sponsored event, and one still in place, is an exhibit at the LeRoy Neiman Art Center. Curated cooperatively by Arts Horizons/LeRoy Neiman Art Center and Harlem Needle Arts, this exhibit displays the work of Nigerian Artist Chief Nike Okundaye. Titled "An Odyssey through the Years", it demonstrates one artists work to emancipate herself, and give voice to others, by empowering families through their Nigerian roots.
We were fortunate enough to go to the opening exhibit and to meet the artist, her daughter and her family at the reception. Without the generous work of Harlem Needle Arts and tthe LeRoy Neiman Art Center. we would never have discoveredt Chief Okundaye's work.
Harlem Needle Arts will be celebrating its 10th year with an on-going series of events and workshops Here's a look at what they are planning for the upcoming Summer-Fall 2017 Season. Specific dates and details will be available online at www.harlemneedlearts.org shortly. (HNA is in the process of rebranding their website so check back if at first you don't find all the information.)
Coming June-October 2017
"Diaspora Rise" - A Festival of Events and Workshops to include:
"The Textile Nation - Then & Now"
"Africa is the New Black"
"The Cultural Landscape of Textiles & Design"
"Sanctuary" - A Community Textile Project
In addition to these upcoming events, Harlem Needle Arts will continue to provide its community members with inspiration and support through their "Mantra Monday's" programs. Held at the LeRoy Neiman Art Center, these ongoing programs teach and support people at all ages and stages in the creative process. For further information on this program, go to www.harlemneedlearts.org and/or firstname.lastname@example.org.