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Stitches, Please

A fabric-based public art project aims to bring UNLV’s art department closer to the community

When it is completed and hung on UNLV’s Grant Hall, in early April, Amanda Browder’s huge fabric installation, “The Land of Hidden Gems,” will be a geometric design evoking the complex interplay between the natural and the urban, a dynamic she thinks is integral to the gestalt of Las Vegas. But there’s another level of symbolism at work that’ll be just as important: The act of sewing the piece together —  using locally donated fabrics, in a series of public stitching events in which anyone, even you, Mr. I Don’t Know How to Sew, can participate — not so subtly literalizes one vital intent of the piece, which is to bring together UNLV’s art department and the community.

“I am attempting with the art department to take forward steps to get to know different groups in the community,” Browder says by phone from Brooklyn, where she lives. She is the first “transformation fellow” engaged by new department chair Marcus Civin. “I’m the catalyst. I can’t be the one who solves that issue. But I can be the person who helps them begin those relationships through the art process. If we actually envelope the audience as part of the making process, they become owners of the piece. I want people to feel that. It’s supposed to be a celebration.”

Public sewing sessions will be held through March (see full schedule on the project’s Facebook page). No sewing knowledge required; Browder will show you how. And she could use the help: She estimates the project will use about 2,000 square feet of fabric.

Scott Dickensheets is a Las Vegas writer and editor whose trenchant observations about local culture have graced the pages of publications nationwide.