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July 24, 2015

Volunteer Days–Emily Winter, MFA Textiles 2015

by emilywinter

A major part of this summer’s project is cleaning up the weaving workshop space. This past weekend, we organized a series of volunteer days to tackle some of the dust, mystery machine parts, and miscellaneous furniture objects and start turning the workshop into a functional work space.

i invited pretty much everyone I know in Chicago, and we had a surprisingly good turnout.

Westtown Center has been hosting meetings for the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) on evenings when the building is empty, and I stuck around for one of those earlier in the week. Westtown Center is right up next to the 606, a new rails-to-trails project which opened this spring. It touches Wicker Park, Humboldt Park, Logan Square, and Hermosa neighborhoods. The LSNA is working on a canvassing project this summer, letting home-owners along the 606 know their rights concerning property tax assessments. This is part of a larger campaign to preserve affordable housing and ethnic and economic diversity in the areas along the 606. It was great to meet the folks from the LSNA. especially their youth team. The canvassing project and the greater campaign are important ones, and I’m really pleased that Westtown and the LSNA are sharing spaces and resources.

Luckily for me, the LSNA youth team’s plans on Friday fell through, so they all came by Westtown to take part in the volunteer day. 25 16-20 year olds jumped in on an incredibly hot July day, and wasted no time painting tables, moving furniture, hanging drywall, and hanging out with Envision clients.


LSNA youth crew (and me on the right in green)

Table painting

We now have a nice selection of orange worktables

Keyondre painting

Keyondre painting a chalkboard wall

On Friday, we had a crew from Friedman Place, a residence for blind and visually impaired. My friend Judith teaches in their weaving studio, and brought some of the residents over to help. Showing the workshop to handweavers is always really exciting, because the elements are all familiar: we know what a warp looks and feels like. We know how the loom works. But to see this scale, tucked into a building in a Chicago neighborhood: there’s really no frame of reference for it.

Friedman volunteers

Jean cleaned the tool cabinet, Wally sorted screws. Good sports.

Tristen vacuum

Tristen vacuuming cones of yarn

On Saturday, we had a few more folks from the LSNA group, as well as a smattering of old friends, new friends, and total strangers.

Big sort

Kristin and Phyllis get the whole sorting thing going

William sorting

William Clayborn: psyched to sort

Ellis palette jack

Ellis tackles the pallett jack

Phyllis dustmask

Phyllis prepares for the workbench’s mysteries


Nick and Anne vacuum demons

Yarn stacking

Hope and Elizabeth stacking cones of yarn

Big table move

This big-group-moving-enormous-workbench was the climax of Saturday’s labors

It was really great to have all these people coming in and out of Westtown over the weekend, seeing what goes on in the building, meeting Envision clients, and learning more about the programs. A major part of what we’re trying to do with the weaving workshop is open up the building to neighbors, artists, and friends. These volunteer days were like informal shopwarmings or barnraisings maybe. The turnout and excitement were mindblowing: I was absolutely moved by the people who showed up and helped out.

We made huge progress on the workshop over the weekend. And shockingly enough, it seems like people had fun. We provided plenty of coffee and donuts.

And weaving demos:

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