Changing lives through art and innovation
I’m astonished when I pick up the paper and read that funding for the arts is being cut or when schools decided to eliminate an arts curriculum. Clearly I am biased because of my work. I scratch my head, wondering why when art—especially the visual arts—provides more than just a pretty object to put on display. Authors Mary Anne Wise and Cheryl Conway Daly provide us with an excellent reason why art eduation needs to be funded—it changes lives.
Rug Money: How a Group of Maya Women Changed their Lives through Art and Innovation is the story of how artist and teacher Mary Anne Wise and her team at Multicolores, a not-for-profit rug-hooking cooperative located in Guatemala, created an art and design curriculum based on the skills of her students, but also honored their cultural traditions. The goal was to preserve traditions through innovative processes that challenge the women to learn new skills, such as drawing patterns, which none of them had ever done. The outcome: unique rugs with personal designs and motifs that reflected their Mayan heritage from talented artists follwed by accolades (and sales!) when they first attended the International Folk Art Market to exhibit their work.
Prior to Mary Anne’s classes, the women struggled to earn an income. Many weavers and embroiderers faced stagnant sales in a saturated market catering to tourists. In 2009, Mary Anne and fellow weaver Jody Slocum embarked on a weekend-long beginning rug hooking program that would expand the repetoire of the artisans making them more competitive. Class materials were inexpensive—paca or used clothing cut into strips were used to hook instead of costly wool.
Rug Money chronicles the evolution of the women and their art. Readers learn how the different rug hookers overcame obstacles such as Carmen, who took the very first class offered in 2009. Later she became a rug-hooking instructor and went on to represent Multicolores at the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe. Or Glendy who started working as a babysitter at the age of eight, dropping out of school when she was in the fourth grade so she could work two jobs to help her family. By 17, she married and determined to make a better life for her seven children. In 2010, Glendy started rug hooking, resulting in a postive change in the quality of life through the sales of her rugs. Her children remain in school, she’s been able to make improvements in her home. Glendy's confidence has grown because of the skills she mastered, and has become a valuable teacher, mentor, and the secretary of Multicolores
Mary Anne and Cheryl lovingly balance the telling (and showing) of Multicolores history along with the creative efforts of the rug hookers. Rug Money is a feel good story and proof that lives can be transformed with paper, pencil, fabric remenants, a rug hook and imagination.