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Artist Sharon Stewart shares “Common Threads” in exhibition Sept. 5-19 at Design on Main

August 29, 2014

Ames artist Sharon Stewart created "Webbed" from clothesline. Her inspiration? A page of stories linking events and her community into "a beautiful web of neighborhood history."
For her "Felted" cape, Stewart transformed a woman's coat in response to a poem about a calico cat. Stewart often reuses materials found in thrift stores in her work.


AMES, Iowa — Beginning in September, Design on Main Gallery, 203 Main St., will host "Common Threads," a series of exhibitions and events that examine relationships between diverse cultural facets of Ames.

An extension of Iowa State University's College of Design, Design on Main seeks to strengthen creative connections between the university and the community through arts education, artist-led projects and interactive events.

Artist Sharon Stewart will kick off the 2014-2015 program with a textile-based, interactive exhibition opening with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept 5.

Motivated by the debate about high-density housing proposed for her west Ames neighborhood and a desire to maintain or restore the "front porch culture" that may be lost through development, Stewart created a community-based project to explore the concept of "revitalization."

Stewart went door to door to collect stories from residents of the South Wilmoth Avenue/Morningside Street neighborhood that document the "openness and camaraderie" of neighbors’ interactions, she said.

"In contrast to the proposed developments, which we believe will be isolating, what we are fighting for is to have front doors and yards to promote community relationships," Stewart said.

Common Threads Part I: Sharon Stewart will feature more than a dozen wearable artworks derived from the collected stories. For example, Stewart transformed a poem about a cat-sitting stint gone awry into "Felted," a calico cape with a pointy, earlike collar. Through this creative process, Stewart said, she has come to see that "revitalization" may simply mean giving a voice and a place to something that already exists.

During the opening reception, Stewart's pieces will be worn by models, and some will be available for visitors to try on. The work will be accompanied by the neighbors' letters posted on the gallery walls.

Stewart also will host a "Mending Together" workshop from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16, at the Design on Main Gallery. Visitors are invited to bring small mending projects (such as a button, patch or hem) and a sewing machine if they have one. The workshop offers an opportunity to enjoy the company of others while catching up on that sewing "to do" list, Stewart said. Basic notions such as needle and thread will be provided, but participants should bring any fabric or special notions their projects require.

Exhibition hours are 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays or by appointment through Friday, Sept. 19. All events are free and open to the public.

A longtime seamstress, Stewart has worked in costume design for production companies in Colorado and Ohio. Her mother ran a fabric store, and she has been sewing since she could reach the foot pedal. Her family relocated to Iowa one year ago. This is her first solo show in Ames.

Sharon Stewart, (415) 261-7001,
Lyndsay Nissen, Design on Main, (515) 231-2907,
Jennifer Drinkwater, Design on Main, (515) 708-2825,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,