Don’t call it a fashion show—this annual, high-energy, end-of-academic-year event at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art breaks down barriers separating artistic disciplines.
April 27, 2018
Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and parents gathered at the Tyler School of Art for the annual Wearable Art Show, a student-run event organized by Tyler’s Fibers and Materials Studies program that has rapidly grown into the school’s signature, high-energy closing statement of the spring semester.
This year’s Wearable Art Show, called “Vestments,” brought the work of 27 student designers to Tyler’s enormous green hallway, which became a runway for the evening of April 26. The event was organized by students in adjunct faculty member Paige Fetchen’s Experimental Costume class and adjunct faculty member Timothy Belknap’s Body Art and Adornment class. They solicited entries from students all over the school, from sculpture majors to glass majors. The final designs—as many as a half dozen from each participating student artist—were showcased by student models in front of a rapt audience (and a DJ’s thunderous beats).
“This has become a huge event. It was absolutely packed,” said Assistant Professor Jesse Harrod, head of Tyler’s Fibers and Materials Studies program. “The music, the lights and the approaching end of the school year create a celebratory energy. The students can’t wait to put something out there in front of a big, broad audience. Their sense of pride, accomplishment and joy is palpable.”
Tyler’s Wearable Art Show is not a fashion show, she explains.
“This isn’t about consumerism,” she said. “This is about exploration and experimentation.”
Harrod, who joined the Tyler faculty in 2014, is renowned for her manipulation and transformation of fibers and other materials—often including low-brow or discarded materials—to animate their sensual qualities.
“There’s something special about making art that moves,” Harrod said. “Whether it’s sculpture or fabric or painting, all of the art created for our Wearable Art shows interacts with the body in one way or another. It’s an opportunity for our students to see that interaction come to life in a way that we don’t see when we close ourselves off in our studios.”
For Tyler students, the Wearable Art Show offers opportunities to take risks and break down barriers that separate artistic disciplines—a renewed institutional imperative under new dean Susan E. Cahan, who came to Tyler from Yale University last year. Lyssa Current, a junior sculpture major from Charleroi, Pennsylvania, contributed six pieces to the show, including a giant trench coat made out of vinyl and magazines built on a welded metal structure (created for her Experimental Costume class), a handmade suit of chainmail armor (made in her advanced metal-working class) and a rolling green table that replicated a classic magician’s illusion (made for her advanced woodworking class).
“Tyler allowed me to take different classes here to count toward my sculpture degree,” Current said. “My professors welcomed this. I’m excited that interdisciplinary work at Tyler is now more welcome than ever, and this Wearable Art Show is a big part of that. This is something students see a need for. I love how everyone comes together for one night.”
Text: Hillel J. Hoffmann
Photo of wearable art by Laura Rivera: Cristhian Varela
Video production: Gina Benigno and Louis Peluyera, Temple University