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Project-Based MICA Course Has Students Design for the Community

Commemorative Textile Course Designs Banner for Ghanaian Church's 10th Anniversary

Posted 07.15.10 by MICA Communications

Final Design Chosen as the Commemorative  Textile

MICA's prolific outreach into the community was expanded upon this past spring semester as 16 students opted for a one-time project-based course aimed at designing, printing and embroidering commemorative fabrics for Christ the King Presbyterian Church of Maryland's 10th anniversary celebration on Sunday, July 18, which is open to the community to attend.

The church, formerly Ghanaian Presbyterian founded in June 2000, first began worshipping in a conference room in a Silver Spring hotel. Within the past decade, the number of members has exploded, and the church has moved to its current location in Laurel and renamed itself Christ the King Presbyterian.

The course, entitled Commemorative Textile Project, was founded and instructed by MICA fiber chair Susie Brandt and Dr. Freddie Asinor, faculty member at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and president and chief academic officer at MASA Healthcare. Asinor, known for his extensive experience in healthcare organizational development as well as community development, spearheaded the project.

The church first approached JHU with a need for a commemorative textile for their 10th anniversary, and Asinor turned to MICA to form a partnership. With the course's genesis, its founders aimed to put to use the research gained about Maryland's public health from Asinor's research.

"MICA was the natural choice for this project. The institution is the type of vehicle that could provide its creative resources to fill a need in the community," Asinor said. "It is their goal to help organizations realize that there are a lot of community resources available for utilization. Also, that without living and being an active part of the environment, society cannot operate. Everything we do affects our community."

Throughout this collaboration, MICA students explored the rich history of West African printed fabrics, their motifs, and contexts and systems of productions. In class, they studied various Ghanaian clothes, contemporary artists, culture, symbols and music.

Outside the classroom, students attended the church's Palm Sunday service, giving them not only the chance to witness firsthand the cultural interactions of its members but also an inside look into the fashions donned by church attendees.

Students commented in their course evaluations that they were awed at the warmth and enthusiasm received by the church members. They took this unique opportunity to share in the history, culture and sacrament held so reverently within the congregation.

The students then applied their new knowledge to the design process of commemorative items for the anniversary celebration of the Christ the King. After their research period, students began to develop patterned fabric electronically or by hand using the schemes and colors commonly found in Ghanaian art to represent the church's members and their heritage. Students either weaved or printed the designs and then voted for a juried three to present.

After this rigorous drafting process, the final ideas were brought to the members of the church who volunteered in the decision-making process. The chosen 3-foot by 24-foot banner featured the church's logo incorporated with a cross and backdrop using a style similar to that of Ghana's national flag with a green, yellow, red and black color scheme. Several other selected designs by the students were used to create scarves, lapel pins, coffee mugs and brochures also used by the church. These signature items will be given away to members of the congregation, and the coffee mugs will be auctioned off during the anniversary celebration.

"I think it was really amazing to be allowed this opportunity to work on a real-life design project and to use printed fabric as a viewfinder into another culture," Brandt said.

"Art is an integral part of our daily lives. We live and breathe it. That is why this community involvement project was such a beneficial experience for the students," Asinor said. It is his aim that many other organizations, especially universities, share this principle.

Commenting further on future research projects, Asinor said he would be thrilled to partner with MICA the next time the right project came along. Being able to partner in such a way again would certainly be beneficial to all parties. "There are several other organizations that struggle for various reasons, especially in Baltimore. If we go out into the community and do our part then we can create a better life experience for everyone. That isn't something you can learn in a textbook."