One of the coolest, make-you-smile-events I’ve covered is the Reclaim-to-Wear + Found Object Fashion Show, the culmination of the Art 299 course at the University of Illinois, taught by Susan Becker.
She and her students have put on the show in the Link Gallery, between Krannert Art Museum and the Art + Design Building, for the past four years, showing off outfits they made from found objects and recylable materials — stuff most of us would never dream of as being wearable.
N-G photographer Robert K. O’Daniell and I covered the Fashion Show on May 8. My text and his photographs will appear on the Features page in this Sunday’s News-Gazette.
Susan encourages her students to make outfits from things they find and discourages them from buying materials.
"I talk a lot about the fashion industry being one of the industries that generate a tremendous amount of waste," she said.
The show as well as the course almost didn’t happen this spring because of the dismal budget at the university. Two campus organizations came to the rescue.
Global Crossroads Living Learning Community and Intersections Living Learning Community, both part of University Housing/Residential Life, provided the lion’s share of the funding for the course, said Lydia Khuri, program coordinator.
The academic course budget for the Living Learning Communities is funded by the Office of the Provost, Khuri said — money for academic courses do not come out of the housing budget.
The Art 299 students I interviewed loved the course though it seems rigorous, judging from the curriculum. But the students, some of whom are interested in fashion as a career, said Susan makes the course fun.
Sophomore Sara Jahn of Mahomet, a painting major, said Art 299 was a good way to learn more about the fashion industry. She’s interested in bridal wear as a career; in the Fashion Show she modeled a dress from cotton rounds and white Kleenex.
Justine Fein, who in the Fashion Show program went by her birth name, Bursoni, said she learned a lot about construction; she made her outfit, a simple A-line dress, from floppy disks.
An art education major, she took the course because she had heard that Susan was an "amazing teacher."
Sophomore Tingting Liu, who made an origami-inspired outfit, said she’s always been interested in fashion and took Susan’s course to see where it would lead to.
I hope Art 299 lives on, for the sake of students.