Applied Museum Practices II – The Fabric Workshop and Museum
Semester: Spring 2023
Faculty Advisor: John Muse
Field Site: The Fabric Workshop and Museum
Field Supervisor: Christina Roberts
Praxis Poster:Frances Millar_Praxis Poster_Final
Spring 2023 was my second semester participating in Praxis IS, as I was lucky enough to extend my internship placement at the Fabric Workshop and Museum and my advising relationship with Professor John Muse (of Haverford’s Visual Studies program) after a wonderful experience in the fall semester. Working in FWM’s Education department has continued to be an incredible supplement to my academic work within my History of Art major, especially as I have been completing my senior thesis and beginning my career in the arts this term. As a small institution that is both a contemporary art museum and a working artist’s studio, the work of FWM is inherently collaborative and interdepartmental. Under Director of Education, Christina Roberts, my work in the education department has been varied and engaging, taking place in both the museum’s office and studio spaces.
At the beginning of the semester, I was tasked with designing the content for a proposed workshop, rag rug weaving in collaboration with the (then upcoming) artist-in-residence exhibition, Henry Taylor’s Nothing Change, Nothing Strange. This show, which I helped open in March, features a large loom and woven element, among other sculptural components. Having interned previously at a historic weaving guild and fiber arts education center, the Little Loomhouse in Louisville KY, I had a background in weaving that made me apt for this project. Over the course of a few weeks, I researched weave structures, tested the weave structures in conjunction with the looms and warp threads we had onsite, and timed the run of the weaving project from start to finish to ensure it could be completed within the allotted time. The result was a unique design woven from scrap fabrics and heavily inspired by the use of tartan in Taylor’s exhibition. Throughout the semester I also helped with a variety of studio projects and tasks, like creating dye mordant for a natural dye workshop, mixing inks, demonstrating silkscreen techniques to tour groups, and teaching another intern to use a sewing machine. I also assisted with a major collaboration event – the opening of Radically Merrimeko at the Swedish American Historical Museum in South Philadelphia. At the exhibition opening, Christina Roberts and I assisted over one hundred twenty museum guests in creating their own Merrimeko-inspired prints using collage and silkscreen processes. Working with physical materials in the studio is not only incredibly personally rewarding but is key to my understanding of the work of FWM.
I’ve been involved in many efforts in the office as well as the studio. At the end of the fall semester, FWM hosted a fundraiser and closing ceremony for their Fall 2022 college/post-graduate and high school apprentice cohorts. This event, which I helped to promote, was a great success, bringing in nearly $8,000 in direct support of the program. This spring, I corresponded with the donors we recruited at the event, facilitating the gifting of printed banners in thanks for their contributions. I helped with institutional/program funding in other ways too, like assisting in writing grant applications. As FWM is a non-profit organization, external funding is key to our ability to provide exhibitions and programming. In the latter half of this semester, I spent considerable time doing research for the exhibition of an upcoming artist-in-residence, Jessica Campbell, whose show will open in October. For this project, I researched her oeuvre, exhibition themes, and potential partners for collaboration.
My work at the Fabric Workshop and Museum this semester has been invaluable to me as a young person entering the museum/arts field. Through two semesters, I have thoroughly developed and improved a skillset in museum administration practices that will be vital to my career. I am very grateful to have worked alongside Christina Roberts, as well as my faculty advisor John Muse, who has been instrumental in my understanding of the Philadelphia arts community, knowledge of museum/visual studies theory, and professional development.