A call to action for tapestry artists.

Foreground piece is Tara by Michael Rohde
***Update added 1/18/13 at 5pm ET. This note is from the ATA's Chair of Exhibitions: 
As you may have learned, through a misunderstanding with the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, they had initially only installed part of the ATB9 exhibition. Michael Rohde has spoken with the Museum Executive Director, who has promised to begin next week the installation of the rest of the tapestries. ATA regrets the situation, but feels that the Museum is doing its best to rectify the omission.

Please, if you have any questions or concerns, do not contact the Musuem, but send your questions to board@americantapestryalliance.org

I am in Fort Wayne, Indiana today to see the American Tapestry Biennial 9 at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. I was excited about this trip. It is no small thing to get here from rural Colorado.

I flew into Detroit, drove the 3 hours to Fort Wayne, located the beautiful downtown museum, and was greeted warmly by the museum staff. I walked into the gallery indicated by the docent and immediately knew there was something wrong. There weren't enough tapestries. I counted 25 and then reviewed the images in my mind of the tapestries I expected to see from the catalog. There was no Barbara Heller or Nancy Jackson or Archie Brenan or Dorothy Clews to be found. I checked around all the corners. I went to the gift shop and looked at the catalog again just to make sure I wasn't making up tapestries that were supposed to be there. Nope, they weren't hanging.

I was able to talk to the curator of the show and executive director of the museum, Charles Shepard, about what happened to the other tapestries, the purpose and structure of the American Tapestry Alliance, and some about what tapestry is all about. There was certainly an error somewhere with communication about the running feet needed for this show. Whose fault it was is not important at this point. What is important is that almost half of the glorious tapestries are rolled up in a room somewhere and I couldn't see them.

In my mind, what matters most is what came next in our conversation. The museum is interested in showing work in many different mediums and it seems that all they really understood about tapestry was that it is a fiber medium. They didn't really understand what tapestry was and through research of past biennials on the ATA website, didn't fully comprehend how large tapestries can be. When they got the work and realized it was a show of "fiber paintings" some of which were huge, they realized they didn't have a big enough space reserved. So after a lot of shuffling, they chose the pieces that are currently hanging.

I was grateful to get to speak with Mr. Shepard and extremely happy that he accepted this show for his gallery. I appreciate his successful efforts at choosing a cohesive group of tapestries from the juried tapestries sent to him and for hanging them so beautifully. I hope that the Fort Wayne Museum of Art hosts another ATA biennial one day soon. Their facility is fantastic and they are open to showing fiber work. They certainly have enough space for an entire biennial, they just didn't have enough of it reserved for this show.

What I am disturbed by is that the museum didn't completely understand what tapestry was. Did you get that? An art museum didn't understand what our medium is. This is very bad news for tapestry artists. We have a long way to go if we want to be considered fine art. And how are we going to have our art seen if it isn't considered fine art? If I spend my life energy creating images that attempt to communicate something to the world outside my head, then I want my images seen. I hope that other tapestry artists also feel this way.

I am discouraged by how few fiber artists seem to want to engage in dialog on this matter. Yes, it is easier to hide in our studios and weave, but tapestry will remain an antiquated medium remembered as something for decorating medieval castles and not a contemporary fine art form if we don't talk about it.

Let's start now. Leave your thoughts in the comments. Go to the ATA forums and participate. Use the power of social media and the internet. Talk to people in your various art communities. Pay attention to international tapestry work. Submit your work to shows and tell people what tapestry is. Go to public places and demonstrate tapestry weaving. Show your work wherever you can. Do it.

Here is the list of the tapestries that are not hanging in Fort Wayne. You can see the others at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art until February 21st.
Deann Rubin, Draw/#2 Pencil
Mary Kester, Broken Lintel
Myla Collier, Urban Forest
Janet Austin, On the Edge of Chaos
Erica Lynn Diazoni, Psyche
Bozena Pychova, Blue Prelludium
Nancy Jackson, Lakota Creation Myth II
Kathy Spoering, August
Joanne Sanburg, Bebe
Suzanne Pretty, Road Construction in Detail
Archie Brennan, Partial Portrait-AB-Once Upon a Summer
Barbara Heller, Sarah Rebecca
Dorothy Clews, Antipodean Landscape
Pat Williams, Red Winged Black Birds: Memorial to Their Falling From the Sky
Anne Brodersen, Departure
Marie-Thumette Brichard, Glaucophanes et Prasinites 2
Though the show is truncated, I still highly recommend seeing it if you can. Most of the pieces hanging are stunning. I mourn the ones that are in the back room. I really very much wanted to spend some time with them too.

(Yes, I did request permission to photograph the show. ATA allows photographing of tapestries in the biennials, but this particular museum does not allow photography. I was given permission to photograph just in this gallery today.)