Calling all creatives! Third annual wearable art show seeks artists

— Created December 13, 2023 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

Photo Courtesy of The Center, Oak Harbor
Model and creator of her ensemble, Jamie, prepares to go on stage earlier this year at the Wearable Art Show – An Unexpected Runway Show with Flair, held at The Center in Oak Harbor. Organizers of the third annual Wearable Art Show are looking for all those interested in creating a unique ensemble for the 2024 show.

The Center in Oak Harbor is asking all those interested to consider entering its third annual Wearable Art Show, which will be held April 20, 2024. The event is a fundraiser for the Oak Harbor Senior Center Foundation and is done in conjunction with the Oak Harbor Parks and Recreation Department. The deadline to apply to enter the show is March 15, but there are several upcoming events to help answer any questions artists may have.

Dubbed “an unexpected runway show with flair,” the Wearable Art Show is a fashion show highlighting the fun of working with repurposed materials. Those who enter don’t have to have a background in fashion design, they just have to have an idea. Participating artists are asked to create a complete ensemble that will be worn in the culminating fashion show in April.

The first two wearable art fashion shows asked artists to incorporate a theme, such as feathers or foliage, but this time artists have free range.

“We decided to remove the theme and allow artists to follow any inspiration or ideas they may have,” said Liz Lange, recreation manager for the City of Oak Harbor. “We wanted to open those doors and not limit creativity. The only ‘theme’ would be in utilizing repurposed materials – how they are used is up to the artist.”

Participating artists need no experience – everyone is encouraged to enter. It doesn’t cost anything to enter, although artists do pay for their own materials, one of the reasons repurposed or reused materials are encouraged. Students are also encouraged to participate and the first 10 student entries will receive a $100 participation award per ensemble and 10 volunteer hours.

“We see this as an opportunity to bring our youth into community events, to help them be engaged in the community and give them an opportunity or outlet to show their skills outside of the classroom or school setting,” explained Lange. “It’s real-life experience for students and it’s also about that aspect of getting involved in community events featuring intergenerational contact.”

Those who decide to participate can model their creations themselves, provide their own models or organizers at The Center can provide models. Members of Miss Oak Harbor and Mr. Oak Harbor royalty will be available to model ensembles.

Photo Courtesy of The Center, Oak Harbor
Duncan Chalfant, president of the Oak Harbor Senior Center Foundation, is already working on his wearable art creation for the 2024 Wearable Art Show in April, by spending some time cutting up yogurt containers. The unique fashion show is a fundraiser for the foundation, which provides scholarships and some program assistance for The Center in Oak Harbor.

Duncan Chalfant, president of the Senior Center Foundation board, said he has already begun working on his entry.

“I have an idea I’m working on,” he said. “It’s all about the fun. I’m on the eclectic side of things; I usually get a good laugh out of what I do. I kind of like to do projects anyway, and this is something I can do in my spare time, so it’s a good thing. The most fun, though, is the night of the event, when you actually get to show your work.”

Lange said she entered an ensemble for the first time last year, and was pleased and surprised with how it all came together when her daughter modeled it on the runway.

“I had never done anything like this before,” she said. “I had never created wearable art or any kind of art and never classified myself as an artist. But I loved the process of it – seeing the fabric and materials, the journey of discovery was so fun. Even if I could barely sew – there was a lot of glue and staples – it was so fun to see the pieces coming together. It didn’t turn out as I originally envisioned, but it made me realize I have more skills and abilities than I thought I had.”

For those who are interested in creating a wearable art ensemble, there will be a Meet and Greet gathering at The Center at 7 p.m. Jan. 11.

Photo Courtesy of The Center, Oak Harbor
Creator Kathi Phillips shows off her fabric finds at the Crafters Swap at the Oak Harbor Library earlier this year. Artists participating in the next Wearable Art Show at The Center next year may be able to find lots of recycled or repurposed materials with which to make their fashion ensembles. The next Crafters Swap will be held at the Oak Harbor Library in February.

“It’s an informal time to talk, chat, have a good time,” Chalfant said. “Folks might need ideas or have questions about materials. Then on Feb. 10, there is the Crafters Swap at the Oak Harbor Library. A lot of people showed up last year and were able to pick up a lot of their materials. Then on March 14, we’ll do another artist check in to see how everybody is doing.”

“If folks need additional support or are stuck in the process, this is a great opportunity and it aligns with our entry deadline,” said Lange. “It’s not too late for people who have decided they want to enter, even if they missed the first Meet and Greet.”

All of this, of course, is to raise money to help support the Oak Harbor Senior Center Foundation. While The Center is part of Oak Harbor Parks and Recreation, the funding it receives from the city covers the cost of the building and staff. Program fees, membership fees and money from the foundation help fund everything else. Organizers feel the Wearable Art Show will become a main source of funding in the future.

“One of the most important things the foundation does is provide a scholarship program,” said Chalfant. “We can provide financial help for people who can’t afford a membership or perhaps a local trip. We can help with up to $120 per person, per year. When there are 1,000 people there, that’s a lot.

“Most of the people who participate in The Center’s programs have a good time,” he continued. “We want to make sure everyone has a good time. Financial ability shouldn’t be a limiting factor.”

Photo Courtesy of The Center, Oak Harbor
Model Lona Lange works on her makeup before the start of the 2023 Wearable Art Show at The Center in Oak Harbor. Organizers of next year’s fashion show are looking for artists to create one-of-a-kind ensembles using recycled or repurposed materials.

The foundation also administers the Gifts of Connection program, which provides gifts to people who are isolated or at home.

“We could be the only visitor they get this holiday season,” said Lange, who noted the importance of the programs The Center provides for older adults. “Whether it’s an exercise class or playing pinochle, it all really comes down to our focus on fall prevention and overcoming social isolation,” she continued. “Both are top public health issues for older adults and Island County has a higher percentage of these issues. Social isolation descends quickly into mental decline. So a lot of important work is happening to keep people independent, healthy and engaged.”

The final application deadline is March 15. All those interested can scan the QR code included here or find all information and applications online at Tickets for the April 20 fundraising event will likely go on sale near the end of February or the beginning of March. This event has sold out in the past, so those interested in attending are encouraged to buy their tickets early.