Designed For a Cause

Couture for a Cause group shot on stage

Poet and spiritualist Thomas Merton famously said “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Besides being a wonderful summary of the art experience, it always reminds me that the field of art is a diverse one, and it is full of these kinds of dichotomies and contradictions. It often begins as a private activity, but the end result is put on public display; the themes explored in the arts can be the most personal and yet have universal appeal.

The world of design, art’s more practical cousin, often appears more straight-forward, using creativity for a particular purpose, whether it be an architectural drawing, a layout for a poster, or a prototype for a new product. However, the design process is also full of contradictions. Fashion design and the fashion industry in particular is rife with conflicts, from issues concerning economic disparities and body image, to work conditions and use of resources. However, the focus in the fashion design classes at Dana is to explore the creative process: bringing an idea from inspiration to sketch, problem-solving along the way, and learning the practical craft of making things with one’s hands. The focus of students’ designs is on inventiveness and personal expression, not recent trends and the consumerism that surrounds the fashion industry.

Several years ago a group of Dana Hall design students decided to use their creative powers for good and deal with some of these conflicts head-on by creating an event called Couture for a Cause: Dana Hall’s Annual Spring Fashion Show. The idea behind the event was to showcase the creative projects the student designers developed over the course of the year while raising money for a worthy cause, and having fun in the process. Over the last decade students have raised money for a variety of causes, from hurricane and tsunami relief, to environmental programs and diversity issues. The recent show in April was a wonderful success, highlighting a variety of beautiful and interesting designs modeled by students and faculty volunteers, and raising money for the organization Kiva.Org, providing microloans for female entrepreneurs from developing countries around the world. The outfits from the show are on display through the end of the school year and are a great reminder of the ways that art brings a little joy and a bit of ourselves to the world.

Read a recent article in the Hallmanac about the fashion show: https://hallmanac.danahall.org/cause-for-celebration/

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About Michael Frassinelli

Michael Frassinelli is the Chair of the Department of Visual Arts and Director of the Dana Art Gallery. He teaches foundation arts, sculpture, architecture, and design. He joined the faculty in 2002.

2 Replies to “Designed For a Cause”

  1. What a wonderful post, Michael! I especially appreciate your reminder that art is filled with dichotomies and contradictions.

  2. Michael,
    The creativity displayed by our students never ceases to amaze me. Thank you for continuing to encourage that creative spirit in all of our students!

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