Friends of ChildFund's Global Wearable Art Event

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By Christine Ennulat
Posted on 5/18/2011

When the first Friends of ChildFund group launched last year in Richmond, Va., its goal was twofold: to raise awareness of ChildFund's mission, and to attract more child sponsorships and contributions through fundraising events. They kicked things off by raising several hundred dollars for ChildFund with a car wash/community service project at a local school.

This spring's project is a bit more creative.

When the Friends of ChildFund approached faculty from Virginia Commonwealth University's art school to propose a wearable art fashion show to benefit the organization, Fashion and Merchandising department chair Karen Videtic suggested a multi-disciplinary course in which students would draw inspiration from the countries where ChildFund works, to make wearable items that could be auctioned.

Videtic asked faculty member Kimberly Guthrie to teach the course. "Because of the uniqueness and expected impact, I said yes, of course," says Guthrie. ChildFund staff visited the class, and students toured ChildFund's Richmond headquarters. Later, ChildFund staff heard student presentations on the countries they had chosen to focus on from among the 31 where ChildFund works.

Click an image to view slideshow:

'Not forgotten' scarfTagua and stamp braceletRuble broochCapeSilk capeletBead and gold earringsLampshadeVietnam-inspired necklaceEcuador-inspired necklaceBuddha-inspired pendantHandbag with stingray leatherRed necklaceThree students and their professor

ChildFund as inspiration for the course's agenda fit with both Videtic's and Guthrie's vision for the global perspective they feel young people need. "The world is changing every day, and students need to learn and realize how that connects to them directly," says Guthrie. "How will it influence them?"

It certainly made their worlds bigger and sparked their creativity.

Marylin Li, a junior, chose Vietnam because she wanted to deepen her understanding of the country, which she had visited during high school. She created two necklaces and a capelet inspired by the adornments popular among the tribal cultures she is most drawn to.

For Jennifer Robbe, a senior, it was Ecuador's Incan and Spanish history that caught her eye, and the Ecuadoreans' love of vibrant color held it. The bracelet, necklace and earrings she made evoke the colorful jewelry favored by Ecuadorean women.

Sarah Robbe, also a senior (and Jennifer's sister), was especially moved by the trials endured by her chosen country, Belarus — its losses in World War II, the lingering effects of radioactive fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in neighboring Ukraine, the 32,000 Belarusian children who are orphaned. Sarah made a brooch, scarf and cape whose designs are inspired by Belarusian history.

Erin Bailey created her pieces "based on inspiration from [Thailand's] resources, religion/spirituality and tribal adornment," she says. In addition to a handbag incorporating stingray leather and a Buddha-inspired pendant of crystal and silver, Erin created a lamp shade inspired by Thai head pieces.

"I don't know that I have experienced this kind of enthusiasm from students about their projects before this class," says Guthrie.

[UPDATED] On May 19 at the Reynolds Gallery, one of Richmond's premier art venues, the Friends of ChildFund's Global Wearable Art Show and Silent Auction showcased the class's dozen creations. Also on view and available for purchase were accessories made by several VCU faculty members, inspired by Zambia, Mexico, Guatemala, Uganda and the Philippines. About 200 people attended, raising an estimated $15,000 for ChildFund's Children's Greatest Needs Fund. Roughly $6,000 of that amount came from the students' creations alone.

The event brings more than financial support for ChildFund's life-changing work. This collaboration among Friends of ChildFund, VCU students and faculty and all of the event's guests and supporters is raising awareness of ChildFund's work in a most beautiful way.