CHAMBERSBURG – Last Friday, Foundry Art Market (100 S. Main St.) unveiled “Women@Work.” The collaborative art project consists of 36 individual pieces that, when assembled, form a single image depicting women at work.
The project was originally conceived with the idea that artists from the community would come to the Foundry to create their tiles alongside Foundry members.
The pandemic made in-person meetings problematic, but it brought with it a renewed interest in long-distance collaborations.
Working in the isolation of their home studios, the artists now had the additional challenge of developing their portions without knowing what the finished image would be.
“It was still a lot of fun, and it was even more of a mystery because all the artist got to see was their little piece of a very complicated picture,” said Foundry member Anne Finucane. “We chose a complicated picture so there would be lots of detail in most of the panels.”
The concept is a modern variation of the Victorian-era parlor game “Exquisite Corpse” in which participants complete a portion of a work – it could be words, music or images – with little to no knowledge of what the other artists have already contributed.
“Everybody has a little part and then you put it together,” said Finucane. “It’s perfect for the time of a pandemic because everybody got to work individually at home and then bring it all together.”
Some artists were tasked with depicting faces and hands, others focused on ceilings and floors, but none of them knew where their portion would ultimately be placed within the bigger picture.
“Women@Work” incorporates 36 different styles – some bold, some atmospheric – and a variety of media including oil, acrylic, collage and marker. It should be seen in person because pictures on social media will likely fail to convey the variations in texture.
The original photograph is a view of Falafel Shack’s (9 N. Main St.) kitchen, and it was chosen because it is “such a welcoming presence in the community” explained Finucane.
“We wanted to feature a business that was really at the heart of the community,” said Finucane, “and they are definitely at the heart of this community with Amer Chaudhry, owner of Falafel Shack, being on the borough council and having a business that welcomes everyone. They want to serve food that will expand people’s palates and minds.”
All of the funds raised will help Women in Need provide counseling, legal advocacy and emergency shelter to people in Franklin and Fulton Counties.
The 501(c)(3) nonprofit began more than 40 years ago as a rape crisis hotline, and it has added a broad array of services to match the community’s needs over the decades.
“Last year alone, we assisted 1,831 new clients,” said Jenna Faust, WIN’s community relations manager. “That’s just new clients. That doesn’t include our existing client database.”
Faust explained that an estimated 12 million men and women experience some sort of intimate partner violence each year in America, and that it is a global, national and local problem. However, it’s not something that people talk about openly, so if you haven’t experienced it, you might not know about it.
“One of the big trends that I see in the community is that people think that our services are just for women because of our name,” said Faust who added that she has been with WIN since December and that her position is new within the organization.
“That’s a misconception and that’s not true at all,” she said. “We help all victims of domestic or sexual violence whether it be men, women and members of our LGBTQ community. We offer services for everyone.”
Before the pandemic, WIN could often be found at health fairs and back-to-school events. Without these community activities, WIN has had to adapt and find digital workarounds for their real-world outreach initiatives.
One of their biggest changes was transforming their “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” fundraiser into a virtual app-based event.
WAM is traditionally held in April, but after being postponed multiple times, it was rescheduled for September 3-14. Instead of a single march down Main Street, participants are now asked to walk every day for 12 days.
Because the event is occurring at the time of this writing, it is difficult to predict how the changes will affect their total fundraising, but it does add a sense of importance to other fundraising channels such as the “Women@Work” exhibit.
“We’re doing our best to still make it work and still make it fun and get all of our returning walkers back, but it’s definitely not our norm,” said Faust.
“I had part of an apron and a derriere and a part of a table,” said Davis of her contribution, which used acrylic and marker. “It was a little easier for me to figure to figure out what the picture was based on the pieces that I had.”
She added: “But I had to approach it as an individual piece because if you thought of the whole, you worried a little bit more about how you would look within the whole. I just focused on what my piece looked like by itself.”
Davis was impressed with how many people who are unaffiliated with the Foundry participated in the event. According to Finucane, 13 Foundry members and 23 artists from the community contributed to the work.
“It’s exciting when someone has the ability to step outside of their comfort zone and say, ‘This is an idea, let’s see where it goes’ and just hold your breath for what the outcome is going to be,” said Davis. “You take a deep breath and jump in.”
For Davis, the experiment was successful because it united a large group of women together for a single cause.
“Thirty-six different visions come together to make something that has a lot of power,” said Davis.
“Women@Work” will be on display on the Foundry’s “Spotlight Gallery” wall until November 1. Foundry Art Market is open Friday through Sunday, 11-3.
[Main image caption: A detail image of “Women@Work,” which will be on display through November 1. The exhibit was created by 36 artists who each contributed a tile without knowing what the finished image would be. The tiles can be sponsored, and the proceeds go to Women in Need.]