Even as last year’s Lotus World Music and Arts Festival was winding down, our Visual Arts Committee had set its sights on persuading William Itter to let us draw on his remarkable collection for an African art exhibit in 2012. We’re happy to say that he embraced the idea.
This year’s special exhibition for the Lotus World Music and Arts Festival is “WOVEN and CONSTRUCTED: African Textiles and Baskets,” and it includes a small selection of the fiber-art objects Itter has collected over the last twenty years. These gorgeous textiles and baskets originate from Sierra Leone, Mali, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togos, Nigeria, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. “I have enjoyed collecting antiques and ethnographic objects that reveal form in self-evident ways — by truth of hand mark and surface design,” he says.caption”=”Kuba raffia panel; William Itter Collection
Bill and his late wife, Diane Itter — a nationally recognized fiber artist — began to acquire antiques and ethnographic objects and textiles together. Diane died in 1989; Bill has continued to add to the collection that they started. “This exhibit is part of a living library of objects from my collection,” he says. “I hope they will introduce visitors to woven forms that are not often seen, published, or thought of as art.”Kuba basket; William Itter Collection
Visitors to “WOVEN and CONTRUCTED” will see both large woven textiles from Kente, Kuba, and other sub-Saharan African traditions, and baskets that demonstrate basket-making techniques typical of African basketry, including hand coiling, plaiting, wickerwork, and twining.
Throughout the summer, Bill has worked with members of the Visual Arts Committee to prepare the exhibition. Guided by textile conservation expert Sarah Noggle, the team carefully mounted large textiles to fabric backs that will allow the pieces to hang without damaging their structure. Artist Gail Hale, a longtime Visual Arts Committee member, says, “It’s an honor to work with and handle textiles that I love, in the presence of kindred spirits. In the patterns of the fabrics, I can feel the rhythm of the weaver and hear the songs they sing.”Sarah Noggle applies a sleeve used to safely hang a textile
“Bill’s been incredibly generous with both his collection and his time,” says Lotus Outreach Director Loraine Martin. “The exhibit has influenced other aspects of the Festival,” she continues. “The Arts Village labyrinth is made with decorative panels inspired by African textile designs and constructed in 18 community workshops, while activities in the Art Pavilion at Lotus in the Park also draw on African art traditions. It’s been exciting to see the reach of this project throughout Bloomington.”From left: William Itter, with Lotus Visual Arts Committee members Sarah Noggle, Suzanne Halvorson, and Gail Hale
More on the “WOVEN and CONSTRUCTED” exhibit (September 7 – 29) here. Don’t miss the opening on September 7, and gallery talk on September 13, part of Ivy Tech’s Lifelong Learning Week. These events are free. This exhibit is made possible in part with support from the IU African Studies Program, the IU Emeriti House, and a partnership with the Ivy Tech Center for Lifelong Learning.