Monday, October 3, 2011

History of Arts & Consciousness, Part Three

“Art is cultural communication…. Somehow we all relate to art. We wouldn’t and couldn’t survive without it. The artist’s role has always been to take the impossible road. To explore the unknown and test the outside limits.” Gyongy Laky, founder of Fiberworks

In the 1970’s the Bay Area was alive with cultural innovation. While Charles Miedzinski was conceptualizing the JFK University Consciousness and the Arts program with its emphasis on the connection between art and spirit at UC Berkeley’s MA in Design program Ed Rossbach was redefining fiber craft. His use of materials such as newspaper, plastics, and cardboard and processes such as stapling or gluing moved craft away from function and towards expressive content and meaning.

Ed Rossbach, newspaper, twine, plastic
 He mentored numerous graduates who became important members of the next generation of artist/teachers across the country.One of these students was Gyongy Laky who, in 1973, founded Fiberworks, Center for the Textile Arts, in Berkeley, California. Fiberworks became an internationally recognized experimental school with a gallery and studios and a philosophy of innovation.

The program was incorporated into Lone Mountain College in San Francisco as an MFA in textiles and was picked up by JFK University in the late 1980’s. The MFA and MA in Arts and Consciousness were separate art degrees and although there was talk of bringing them together as one program the MFA was closed in1992.

Graduates from the program include contemporary artists such as Mie Preckler, and Mildred Howard whose Fiberworks MFA thesis projects reside in the JFK University library system on the Berkeley campus along with the thesis projects of the Arts and Consciousness program. Artist Nance O'Banion, who taught at Fiberworks and is currently Chair of the printmaking department at the California College of Art, continues to link the past and present. Her work was shown in a solo exhibition in the Arts & Consciousness gallery in 2001 and she is a guest lecturer in the Creativity and Consciousness course.

I can only imagine the vital conversations that may have taken place between the faculty and students of these two visionary programs that sought to enlarge the field of creative practice to include psychological, spiritual and cultural dimensions. The dialogues that Arts & Consciousness faculty and students engage in today are directly descended from these diverse legacies.

Reference: Fiber Art: Visual Thinking and the Intelligent Handartist. 2003, 248pp. Kenneth Trapp, Regional Oral History Project, Bancroft Library

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