2021 Wearable Art Show Goes Virtual

This year’s Wearable Art Show—an interdisciplinary and collaborative event that encourages students to think performatively and create art that transforms the ordinary silhouette—brought the runway and cutting-edge work into viewers’ homes with a virtual screening.

Student Rachel McCormick presents her work at the Icebox Project Space in the Crane Arts building in Philadelphia. Video still courtesy of Joseph Amsel and Dan Foley.


The Tyler School of Art and Architecture's 2021 Wearable Art Show—an annual, free public event by Tyler’s Fibers & Material Studies program that serves as a culmination of semester-long interdisciplinary planning, thought, creation and collaboration—was screened virtually on May 6 at 7:30 p.m. EST. Now, the film can be viewed on Tyler's virtual gallery STELLA.

For some students, this event concluded more than a year of preparation—the 2020 Wearable Art Show was unfortunately cancelled as Temple University followed suit with other colleges and universities across the country to move all activities remote in the spring of 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the setback, this year’s show also provided students with many unique opportunities.

First, students had the chance to collaborate across two class years—this year’s event brings together the 2020 and 2021 Wearable Art Show classes, as well as work from the classes “Digital Garment Making” and “Body Art & Adornment.”

“One of the hardest aspects of creating work during the pandemic was not having the Tyler community around me, or working collaboratively with my peers,” said Julianna Daly (BFA ‘21), one of the students who presented work. “But this is why I’ve been so excited for the Wearable Art Show. Everyone was so supportive and encouraging.” 

Rather than develop the show around a theme, as in previous years, this year’s focus shifted to utilizing the resources available to students in their respective, remote studio environments. “Although working remote was not the ideal scenario,” said Paige Fetchen, adjunct faculty in Tyler’s Fibers & Material Studies Program and Wearable Art Show program coordinator, “I think it really gave students a taste of what it's like to create artwork on their own, once they graduate.”


Students Alec Strosser and Rachel McCormick present their work at the Icebox Project Space in the Crane Arts building in Philadelphia. Video still courtesy of Joseph Amsel and Dan Foley.


Tyler’s students rose to the challenge. This year’s show not only presented stunning works of art, it showcased the creativity and ingenuity that is typical of Tyler. When you watch the film, expect to see works made from a range of recycled materials, completely transformed, like cardboard, trash bags, tarps, shower curtains and aluminum cans, to invent new silhouettes. As part of Tyler’s Queer Materials Lab, students had the opportunity to hear virtually from visiting LGBTQIA+ artists, like Chantal Vorbei Thieves and Keenan Bennett, to help guide their work.

In order to exhibit the work safely, students transformed the Icebox Project Space in the Crane Arts building in Philadelphia into a runway and presented their work individually while Joseph Amsel filmed the performance. Local artist and composer Dan Foley edited and scored the final piece. 

“It's always exciting to watch the students invent and challenge ways of making,” said Fetchen. “It was definitely a challenging year, but the students rose to the occasion. We wish we could physically gather to celebrate, but we hope the virtual film will open viewer accessibility while keeping everyone safe.”