In 2013, associate professor of art and Poland native Barbara Westman met with two professors, Agata Zielinska-Glowacka and Aleksander Widynski, from the Academy of Fine Arts in Poland to discuss a possible collaboration between the two Studios of Fiber Arts. What Westman originally thought would be a one-time collaboration between the two schools expanded into an ongoing opportunity; the current exhibition on display, entitled ‘Book-NOT-Book,’ is the fourth yearly display, and the students will begin work on the fifth in the near future.
According to Westman, the first assignment was given to the participating students during the 2013-14 academic year. The exhibition, called ‘Experiment,’ was displayed five times: twice in Poland and three times in the United States, Westman said. One of the displays of that exhibition took place at the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg during the annual ArtWalk, and a large publication accompanied the display.
“[The collaboration] really was an experiment,” Westman said of the title. “It turned out to be fantastic, and really interesting. We thought it would be a one-time thing, but now we’ve done four and we’re getting ready for number five.”
This year’s display, ‘Book-NOT-Book,’ was an assignment with a very generic description of what a book is. Students were encouraged to make the books unique, personal and about what they wanted to tell the world about themselves.
“No one ever said a book had to have pages, or a spine,” Westman said. “Students sometimes included words, sometimes not. Books are all unique, and that’s beautiful, that everything is different.”
Westman said this collaboration has given all of her students, and the students of the Academy of Fine Arts, numerous opportunities to exhibit, both within the States and internationally, and she said the collaboration is a great educational experience and a resume builder, with information about the project being published in multiple prestigious fiber arts magazines and publications. This year’s artwork has also traveled thousands of miles, to and from Poland in Westman’s luggage.
‘Book-NOT-Book’ is currently on display at the SGA Student Art Gallery in the Old University Union. Westman credits the students in the Student Art Society for helping with the initial setup of the display before classes started on Monday, and also lauded the Student Art Gallery for providing many opportunities for students to display exhibitions.
“It’s very exciting,” Westman said. “And as long as the students stay interested, we’ll keep going.”