Once on This Island

IDEAS WELCOME: The Walton Arts Center might seem like a curious location for a crowd-sourced exhibition of upcycled garments, but organizers said the concept is in line with its sustainably minded organization.

Local artists and makers are encouraged to submit their garments made from found objects or trash that could potentially be showcased in the upcoming “Divinity From the Discarded: A Fashion, Apparel and Garment Design” exhibition at the Fayetteville, Ark., organization. The show is meant to draw attention to the WAC’s upcoming run of “Once on This Island.” The concept for the contest was derived from the Tony-winning show’s eye-catching costuming by Clint Ramos.

A WAC spokeswoman said, “It’s set on a hurricane-ravaged island. The people, who play gods, in the show end up picking up recycled, upcycled found items and adding it to their costumes — changing them from an ordinary person to a deity. We thought it was a great opportunity to call some of our fashion designers and artists in the region to put together an upcycled look. Then we will do an exhibition of that, [starting] the week prior to the show.”’

Participants in the statewide contest need not worry that their ideas could be used by the mass retailer. While Walmart is a sponsor of the Walton Arts Center, a spokeswoman made the distinction that the organization is not managed or owned by the mammoth retailer. With sustainability and manufacturers’ and retailers’ overproduction very much a topic of conversation, the idea that a Walmart-sponsored cultural institution would be touting a community-built upycling exhibition could appear to be counterintuitive. But the WAC spokeswoman said, “Walmart has nothing to do with the production or the contest that we are holding. They have naming rights to our facility but they have no other connection other than that.”

Having never done such an open call before, the WAC spokeswoman said she has no idea what the response will be. Arkansas residents 18 or older have been asked to submit only original women’s wear, men’s wear or a unisex sustainable garment. After entries close on Jan. 27, members of the “Once on This Island” creative team will judge the entries for innovation, aesthetic qualities, materials and fabrics, realization techniques and sustainability criteria. As noted in the guidelines, “When submitting to the ‘Divinity From the Discarded’ competition keep in mind that your submission will be evaluated on multiple dimensions. Your design is judged together with its design, realization techniques and successful use and application of found and/or recycled materials of choice. Successful submissions should reclaim ‘waste’ in unexpected ways and reinvent fashion by using one or more design techniques of zero-waste, up-cycling and reconstruction.”

The exhibition will be staged Feb. 3 through the 17 to bookend the show’s run from Feb. 11 to 16.

The spokeswoman noted that the WAC takes sustainability “very seriously” through its own sustainability committee, recycling practices and commitment to Broadway League’s Green Alliance. “Theater can be a very resource-intensive industry especially traveling theater. Instead of having bottled water backstage, we provide reusable water bottles for the artists. We also have water stations,” she said. “We thought this [contest] was a nice extension of that — to allow people to be creative in turning something that is typically trash into something that is very beautiful.”

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