The American Tapestry Alliance is a non-profit educational organization. The purpose of the Alliance shall be to promote an awareness of and appreciation for woven tapestries designed and woven by individual artists; to establish, perpetuate and recognize superior quality tapestries by artists world-wide; to coordinate exhibitions of tapestries to establish a professional networking system for tapestry designers and weavers throughout the world; to encourage use of tapestries by corporate, liturgical and private collectors and to educate the public about the history and techniques involved in tapestry making.
History of ATA
by Marti Fleischer and Claudia Chase (1996)
edited and updated (2002)
The Early Years
The American Tapestry Alliance grew out of a friendship between two tapestry weavers -- Hal Painter and Jim Brown -- who had a common desire to promote and establish American tapestry during a time when the art form finally was experiencing a revival. From their auspicious first meeting at Hal's studio in 1968 where Jim was suddenly transformed from a potter to a weaver, to the 30,000 miles they traveled through the United States and Mexico to teach tapestry, to their eventual creation of an alliance in 1982 that would unite American tapestry weavers, Hal and Jim broke the ground that current ATA leaders and members gratefully till.
The goal of this new alliance was to unite tapestry weavers and designers in order to promote an awareness and appreciation of tapestries designed in America. This would be accomplished by coordinating national juried tapestry exhibits that would showcase the finest quality American-made tapestries and thereby encourage the collection of this artwork by both corporate and private collectors. The founders of ATA envisioned developing a directory of American tapestries that would be displayed in public buildings across America, establishing a slide archive that would provide a permanent record of American Tapestries, establishing a speaker's directory, promoting workshops and seminars, and providing a network that would connect tapestry weavers and designers.
The Ten Year Journey
During the ten years that ensued, ATA flourished in its goals to teach, to inspire, and to provide American tapestry with a sense of legitimacy and a place in the wider world of tapestry. Fastidiously juried exhibits were launched, three of which were documented in full color catalogs. Slides were collected, workshops were taught, and lectures were given. For ten years Painter and Brown nurtured ATA, until Hal Painter's failing health and eventual death slowed the organization to a near halt. Picking up the pieces, a core of members installed Marti Fleischer as director and set to work, perpetuating and adding to the work that had already been done by the two founders.
ATA in the 90's
ATA's membership grew to more than two hundred members. This necessitated an emphasis on the formality of its structure to ensure that it keeps ticking from president to president and from Board to Board. All the traditional organizational tools have been installed from bylaws to newsletter, from budget to computerized information banks, and to not-for-profit status. And the old ideals were maintained and flourished. Traditions continue, such as the Biennial, which showcased the best American Tapestry had to offer.
ATA was proud of its more recent accomplishments. They included: a successful Design Solutions seminar in November 1995, in conjunction with Ohio State University, that set the stage for a similar event to be held at Convergence '96; the completion of the Weaving Guilds' publication; the creation of the "American Tapestries in Public Places" publication; and the ongoing work toward establishing both an educational and a gallery directory. Projected for some time in the future is a materials and supplies directory for tapestry weavers, as well as the compilation of a guide to successful public relations. ATA also planned to take advantage of the World Wide Web in ways that could only be dreamed at the time. The American Tapestry Alliance remained dedicated to its future while remaining true to its seminal purpose: to give American tapestry a name, a place, and a presence in the wider worlds of tapestry and art.
ATA in 2002
ATA, like everyone else, seems not to mark time in decades any longer, but rather in nanoseconds. The new pace of e-business has double-clicked us into a lightning-fast mode of communication and we are holding our own on two fronts:
First, we're still supporting programs to help people learn about and appreciate tapestry, and to help weavers of all proficiency levels become better weavers. We do it a little differently now. This website, our first, will become our hub of communication (for the next short while) about the craft we study together. Our site here at americantapestryalliance.org gives us new opportunities for curated web exhibitions, a place to archive our records, ways for members to post queries for help of all kinds, to see newsletter and feature articles presented with color images, and locate other tapestry community information. Board members conduct business and volunteers work on ATA programs via email. Most of all, computers broaden our reach to weavers around the world as we find new ways to collaborate in our collective mission of promoting tapestry and tapestry makers.
Already, ATA has had its first Biennial venue outside of the fifty states. Vancouver was the first of three venues for ATB4, where an exhibition of Hungarian tapestries shared a gallery with the ATB4. This collaboration with our Canadian neighbors underscored the inclusive intentions of the organization as an American tapestry alliance the continental America. These two forays into an international exchange would not likely have happened had it not been for e-business communications.
Second, we, as tapestry makers, are holding our own by keeping technology at bay as we continue to weave pass by pass as always. It's a counterpoint to the rapid-fire way of life these days, but a welcome counterpoint for all who participate. Many designer/weavers are using computer programs of all kinds to aid in the design process whether conceptual or final design. Weaving has, for most of us, become an amalgam of technique and technology as we approach our craft. This has notable impact on what we produce, often enhancing exhibitions with added layers of interest to appeal to wider audiences.
Feel free to join us as we step further into a future that we all help to shape and which includes a place for handwoven artistic creations.