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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


UW student, alum open Textile Arts Center on northeast side

Fiber arts center offers workshops, demonstrations for Madison community
Photo courtesy of the Textile Arts Center

Whether we understand it or not, humans have an intimate relationship with textiles. There is the joy of slipping on a favorite pair of socks, or the wave of relief that washes over someone’s body as they open up a drawer packed to the brim with clean clothes. It may be that prickly, old wool sweater you will never get rid of. Connections like these help us realize the importance of textiles, specifically highlighting how much we overlook and undervalue their presence in our daily lives.

With the underappreciation of textiles and the process of their creation, many artists find it hard to dedicate so much time to fiber arts. Previously, Madison lacked the platform for said fiber artists to express themselves, textile artist Heather Kohlmeier said. This is certainly not an issue local artists will face now that the brand-new Textile Arts Center of Madison has opened its loving arms for local textile artists, both the experts and the aspiring.

Soon to offer an abundance of workshops, demonstrations and events, Madison’s textile artists now have a community like no other. The TAC will also partake in the reselling and distribution of textile resources and materials throughout Madison. Its exhibitions will serve as inspiration and publicity for the growing local art community.


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Kohlmeier, a University of Wisconsin design studies MFA student, and Elizabeth Tucker, a UW art history MA alum, are longtime friends and Wisconsin natives. While meeting for coffee one day, their idea of a local textile reuse center came to fruition.

“We had always talked about creative things,” Kohlmeier said.

The two were so enthusiastic about this idea that planning began right then and there.

Years before the TAC’s opening, Kohlmeier spent years as a massage therapist, then on the floor as a certified nursing assistant, then as a generalist in a hospital lab. Tucker was also busy as a full-time master’s student in art history here at UW. Finding the time for such an extensive project was unfathomable.

After being accepted into the UW design studies MFA program studying papermaking and fiber arts, Kohlmeier discovered her passion for teaching did not only pertain to the sciences. Thus, she and Tucker made the leap to be co-founders of Madison’s first and only Textile Arts Center.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, this is happening in other communities, we just [didn’t] have one here.” Kohlmeier said.

Both creatives were aware of textile centers around Minnesota, but seeing sparse support and creative outlets in the realm of fiber arts, they agreed a center in Madison would both satisfy Kohlmeier’s background in arts education and Tucker’s art history MFA.

Textile Arts Center owners Heather Kohlmeier (left) and Elizabeth Tucker (right). Photo courtesy of the Textile Arts Center

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The two noticed the communal need for a creative platform for fiber-centric expression, open to all.

“As we began to talk to people, we were seeing how excited they were and how much of a gap there was to fill,” Kohlmeier said.

TAC has found its home in an industrial conglomerate of maker spaces located on the northeast side of Madison.

TAC is not the only creative hub functioning out of a warehouse — it is bordered by The Bodgery, a maker space of tools with a focus on repairing things, as well as The Kiln Shed, a public pottery studio and Tandem Press, a contemporary printing press affiliated with UW. The Madison College satellite campus, which focuses on larger mediums in the domain of woodworking and ceramics, is also nearby. Needless to say, TAC fights right in.

Since the center just opened in October, there is a long list of additions and ideas to be experimented with in the future. As Kohlmeier admitted, the TAC is not exactly close to campus. Though there are modes of public transportation like the UW bus line, the TAC, sandwiched between the Maple Bluff and Emerson East neighborhoods, finds itself in a tough to reach location for students.

Kohlmeier said increasing accessibility to UW students who may find the location inconvenient is a relevant issue.

“Well, that’s the big question, right?” Kohlmeier said.

As a nonprofit organization, funding is crucial to the vitality and success of this fresh operation. As of now, the TAC plans to build its foundation in its current location before planning to do any kind of extension into the UW campus.

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This expansion, however, is a long-term goal and mission for Kohlmeier and Tucker. Being able to hold workshops in community centers for young students yearning for a creative outlet would be the pinnacle of their joint mission to educate, provide and inspire through fiber arts.

Nov. 3, the TAC hosted their first-ever Gallery Night event, where they welcomed over 500 eager and excited locals to experience the growing Madison textile community and admire the artists on display such as Jennifer Angelo, Bird Ross and Mary Hark, a professor of design studies at UW to whom Kohlmeier attributes her pursuit of a design studies MFA.

TAC has received overwhelming support throughout the community, especially after their first event which was called the “Soft Opening.” With these connections, the two co-founders have more ideas and plans than ever before on how to best serve their expanding support base, they said.

Find this inspiring and exciting project at 2436 Pennsylvania Avenue in Madison. Stay tuned to the Textile Arts Center’s website for updates on workshops, demonstrations and exhibitions open to all.

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