Cotton Street Gallery focuses on textile traditions, artist in residency program

Andalusia Star News, June 14, 2023

After retiring from a career in the arts, an Andalusia resident has returned home to open a new art gallery that is designed to honor the city’s past traditions as well as assisting artists practice their craft through a residency program.

Sue Wiggins grew up in Andalusia and graduated from Andalusia High School before spending much of her adult life in the northeastern United States where she spent 45 years assisting companies in building art collections. She said returning to Andalusia and opening a non-profit residency art program is part of her vision to help artists succeed.

“So many of these artists deserve an opportunity to focus on their art and not have to hold down three jobs and use inferior materials. Given the chance to focus on their art was something I wanted to do in my retirement. The residency program is general in its application, but specific to the culture of the location of the program. When (Mayor Earl Johnson) and I talked, it was clear we wanted to recognize the world of fabric fiber and that textile culture of our area. That is what led me to do it here in Andalusia,” Wiggins said.

The Cotton Street Gallery is home to AIR Artists, Inc., which stands for Artists In Residency, a venture that aims to revitalize small towns by creating dynamic arts and crafts that celebrate a region’s natural resources. In Andalusia, the artists chosen for the residency program would focus on textile-based art. Textile art would include items made of cotton, wool, silk, and other fabrics.

“The goal is to bring in artists who apply for residency program who will have a place to live, a stipend, and studio space. There will be an application process for the artists and they will be vetted by a group of selected individuals. Our long-term goal is to occupy the land on the other side of the parking lot with a technology center and residency housing,” she said.

Early on, resident artists will work from the Cotton Street Gallery; however, there are plans to expand with the construction of technology center and an artist residence. Concordia Architecture is working with AIR Artists on those plans.

While the Cotton Street Gallery is not home to a resident artist, yet, it has already started in fulfilling its mission to bring awareness and education about the field of textile arts through community workshops and is home to Quilted Treasures, a collection of new and antique handmade quilts, as well as Pat’s Brats, a line of children clothing. All sales from the gallery benefit AIR and the artist residency program.

Cotton Street Gallery focuses on textile traditions, artist in residency program Andalusia Star News, June 14, 2023

So far, the Cotton Street Gallery has hosted several classes with topics such as scarf-making, needlepoint, and another titled, “How to Use Your Sewing Machine.” Not including classes being held in June, the gallery has already hosted 68 students for these workshop classes.

Currently and continuing through June, the gallery is hosting a children’s art program. Last week, the children learned about fabric dying and will continue with lessons on felted wool geodes, Kumihimo braiding, and tablet weaving. Space is still available, although limited, for the classes, which cost $20. They are designed for ages 5-12 and are held each Wednesday in June from 1 to 3:30 p.m. The classes are taught by Randy and Ann Glick of Evergreen. Andalusia Kiwanis Club is the sponsor of the event.

In July, the gallery will hold a monoprint workshop with printmaking artist Celeste Pfau. The class will be held July 12-15 and cost $150 per student.

Pfau will also be assisting with a Bamboo Exploration Workshop from July 12-15 from 5 to 7 p.m., nightly. Those attending will assist Pfau in the construction of a bamboo fort/art installation, learning about bamboo manipulation techniques while building a temporary outdoor natural materials art installation. This is described as a family-friendly event for children and adults.

Wiggins said she is pleased with the participation in these classes so far, although not surprised. “The people attending these classes is a testament to the interest in textiles and its importance to our community,” she said.

The gallery will host crocheting and cro-tatting classes in the near future, including one designed specifically for men. “We’ve been focused on providing textile technique classes for the community,” Wiggins said. “Techniques would include things like needlepoint, crocheting, tatting … all the old techniques our grandparents used to do.” The fall will also bring the gallery’s first quilt competition that will award a $500 best-in-show prize. The competition will be judged by a renowned quilt judge from Georgia.

Wiggins and others involved in the Cotton Street Gallery are already planning a big event for next spring with a “Walkway Soiree,” featuring the work of fashion designer Vicky Tiel. Currently a resident of Baker, Florida, Tiel established her fashion career in Paris and has designed clothing for celebrities and movies, including the red dress worn by Julia Roberts in the hit movie, “Pretty Woman.” Teal still has the prototypes of these clothes, which will be donned by local models. “We are now in the process of finding local models for the walkway show,” Wiggins said. The “Walkway Soiree” is scheduled for April 2024.

Along with her efforts at the Cotton Street Gallery and with AIR Artists, Wiggins is also busy establishing other residency programs, including a residency program in Georgiana for the field of music and hopes to have other residency programs in the fields of fine arts and fine crafts. For more information about AIR Artists visit airartists. org. For more information about the Cotton Street Gallery, including its listing of upcoming classes and programs, visit cottonstreetgallery.com or call 334-504-8824.