In her book Common Threads: Weaving Community Through Collaborative Eco-Art, Sharon Kallis shares her experiences incorporating overlooked and often unwanted resources at hand as a means to develop community art programs. Kallis references the experimentation and utilization of invasive species for crafting projects as well use of previously undesirable areas to create community spaces. She makes a case that such activities contribute to ecological sustainability, a wider array of interconnection between diverse members of the community and a heightened awareness among the participants of the products they consume. However, in the outline for her specific way of doing things, there are some notable gaps. The question left to be answered is how truly effective are these programs and where are their flaws?
Kallis argues that community eco-art programs educate and promote more sustainable practices. Rather than seeking to completely eradicate invasive plant species by whatever means possible, Kallis believes it would behoove interested members of the community to use them as materials for works of art and crafts. She relates how a particularly invasive species of ivy was experimented upon and utilized over the course of several months. The ivy was ultimately used as basket weaving material and replaced plastic and coconut fibers as the primary substance used for preventing erosion. Kallis states that this served as community connection and that the so-called “weird factor” drew in volunteers. Such projects are pivotal to the notion of Means of Production (MOP) gardening. One of the goals of MOP gardening is to provide members of the community with the resources and knowledge to make consumable items for themselves. Kallis argues that this more sustainable way of creating goods since it cuts down on resources used for transport and offers a higher quality product. Particularly impressive is the preported durability of the linen woven from flax. “…a cotton T-shirt often only lasts for 2-5 years while traditionally processed linen can last for 40-60 years” (Kallis 34). The picture of ecological sustainability Kallis paints is a compelling one, however very little hard data is given about how effective the experimental final products are. She states that the crocheted Ivy was a success, but she never states how much ground it covered or how much of it held. The strength and quality of the baskets and other items made out of ivy.[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Community is a much emphasized aspect in Common Threads. “For me, quilting bees or old fashioned barn raising events have always appealed; they offer a shared purpose, a common goal and ultimately an excuse to meet neighbors and socialize” (84). There are descriptions of community events and drop-in classes. Isolation is referenced as a problem in social health: “we live in little bubbles; not having to see the world from anothers perspective” (72). Kallis states that the programs allow people from diverse backgrounds, cultures and experiences to interact with those whom they wouldn’t normally interact. However, some skepticism must be applied to this assertion. Early in Common Threads, Kallis elaborates on the labor intensive process involved in harvesting and preparing the materials found in the community spaces. She states that this long process allows people to consider the effort that goes into the things that they consume. On top of that, usage of the material is conditional. “MOP asks someone wanting to use material grown on-site to volunteer in some capacity” (30). Although pragmatic, this system coupled with the time invested in crafting handmade goods makes it difficult for those who lack the time and resources to participate in programs. When one expends energy trying to make ends meet, it is difficult to find the time and wherewithal to spend a significant amount of time volunteering and crafting. Also, whether anyone in any given group intends to or not, there is an aura of exclusion with any well established group. An interested member will take a look at the people in the group and try to determine based on first impressions if the group consists of members who are like them or not. If they determine they are not among their own, they are less likely to join the group. Ellis makes it clear that she does everything she can to encourage people to get involved: she makes event signs, she creates a comfortable atmosphere for meetings and workshops. However, in order to expand and diversify the group, the new member has to make the leap and approach the group. This supposition could lead one to believe that there is a limit to how diverse the meetings and classes can truly be.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Ultimately, Common Threads: Weaving Community Through Collaborative Eco-Art provides a compelling portrait of sustainability and opportunity for diverse social opportunities. Sharon Kallis show passion and commitment to the community art projects she describes. However, some hard data would be useful to determine if the programs are living up to their potential. A potentially interesting option would be to incorporate some decidedly non-artistic individuals into the mix of leadership roles.[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
Kallis, Sharon. Common Threads: Weaving Community Through Collaborative Eco-Art. New Society Publishers. 2014.