Radical Fiber: A Symposium on Art and Science

A white piece of fiber art suspended in air
Soft Monitor (Victoria Manganiello and Julian Goldman), c o m p u t e r 1 . 0 (detail), 2018, hollow polymer tubing, natural fiber thread, liquid, operating system, photo by Kelly Vigil, courtesy Soft Monitor

Join us Friday, January 28–Saturday, January 29, 2022, for Radical Fiber: A Symposium on Art and Science to explore the intersections of textiles with sustainability, digital technology, mathematics, and more. The symposium is being held in conjunction with the exhibition Radical Fiber: Threads Connecting Art and Science, which opens January 29, 2022, and explores the ways in which fiber-based practice has and continues to influence scientific theory, pedagogy, and innovation.

The symposium, originally scheduled to be in person, will now be online. Please register for each session below to receive the Zoom link. Visitors are welcome to see the exhibition in person during regular museum hours.

Schedule for Saturday, January 29

All times are Eastern Standard Time

11 am–12 pm: Curator’s Tour of Radical Fiber: Threads Connecting Art and Science
Register via Zoom.

1–2:15 pm: “Textiles, Technology, and Social Good”
Register via Zoom.

  • Trisha L. Andrew, Materials Scientist, Inventor, Entrepreneur

  • Emilie Giles, Researcher, Artist, and Educator

  • Ursula Wolz, Computer Science Educator and Textile Crafter

  • Moderated by Aarathi Prasad, Computer Scientist

2:30–3:45 pm: “The Future of Textiles and Sustainability”
Register via Zoom

  • Preeti Arya, Textile Professional and Consultant

  • Juan Hinestroza, Nanotechnologist and Inventor

  • Alissa Sandra Baier-Lentz, Fashion Industry Entrepreneur

  • Moderated by Nurcan Atalan-Helicke, Food Studies Scholar

3:45–4:15 pm: Day 2 Discussion
Register via Zoom.
A Zoom conversation open to all attendees to meet and talk about the first day of the symposium. Moderated by Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.

See the schedule for Friday, January 28.

About the Symposium

Together, the symposium and exhibition embrace the values of cross-disciplinary collaboration and engagement and especially highlight the value of artists to offer solutions to our most challenging questions today. We will think creatively about the future of textiles—their role in our lives historically and how moments of scientific progress in textiles can inspire future innovation, their technological possibilities for social good, the need for a more sustainable and climate-friendly textile industry, and more.

Radical Fiber: A Symposium on Art and Science, January 28-29, is funded by the generous support of The Alfred Z. Solomon Residency, which brings notable scholars, artists, and critics to Skidmore to address a wide range of issues in the visual arts.

About the Participants

“Textiles, Technology, and Social Good”

Trisha L. Andrew is a professor of chemistry and chemical engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She directs the Wearable Electronics Lab, a multidisciplinary research team that innovates methods and materials to coat fibers, fabrics, and garments and to transform them into electronically active devices. The coated fibers and fabrics can harvest solar light, store energy, capture carbon dioxide, and sense temperature, touch, motion, or physiological signals. She is founder and CTO of Soliyarn LLC, a Boston-based startup that is commercializing vapor-coating technology to transform off-the-shelf fabrics into smart clothing. She is a David and Lucille Packard Foundation Fellow, a National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow, an Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator, a L’Oréal USA For Women in Science Fellow, a 3M Nontenured Faculty Award winner, and was named a Forbes magazine “30 Under 30” Innovator in Energy.

Emilie Giles is a researcher, artist, and educator. Her work is situated within human-computer interaction, focusing on the linking of creative technology, craft practice, and accessibility. She earned her PhD from The Open University, United Kingdom, and is a senior lecturer at The Arts University Bournemouth, teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses in graphic design. Her research explores how people who might not always have access to digital tools can do so on their own terms creatively, giving a greater sense of agency and empowerment. Her PhD work explored the process of working with blind and visually impaired people to make their own e-textile interactive art pieces and how personal stories or memories could be told through the work.

Ursula Wolz holds a PhD in artificial intelligence and has a day job consulting on machine learning for innovative textile production. Her volunteer work centers on textile handcrafts for social justice. As a computer science educator and entrepreneur, she studies and builds computer-based learning environments that include non-traditional media for teaching coding. She founded RiverSound Solutions with a mission to empower computer users to become creators with, rather than consumers of, computing. Her recent work, called “code crafting,” explores how computer science theory is firmly grounded in textile production, borrowing from concepts and techniques established by textile handcrafters millennia before the invention of the Jacquard Loom. Her work contrasts with the automated assessment technology of current instructional technology. She promotes learning environments modeled on ancient women-centered crafting circles, in which skills and knowledge grow organically from the interaction between mentor and student as meaningful work produces useful artifacts.

Aarathi Prasad, assistant professor of computer science at Skidmore College, earned her PhD in computer science from Dartmouth College, completing a thesis that proposed techniques to allow users to share information when using mobile health applications while protecting their privacy. Prior to coming to Skidmore, she worked as a visiting professor at Amherst College. Her research interest is in developing secure and usable applications for mobile and wearable technologies. She teaches computer science courses at all levels, especially in the areas of systems and security. Prasad served on the faculty advisory group for the exhibition Radical Fiber: Threads Connecting Art and Science at the Tang Teaching Museum.


“The Future of Textiles and Sustainability”

Preeti Arya, assistant professor of textile development and marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology, is a strong supporter and spokesperson of sustainable products and practices in the textile industry. Her research interests include sustainability in chemical finishes, textile processing, performance textiles, natural composites, and closed-loop textile production systems. She has presented research papers at several conferences and collaborates with academic researchers and companies encouraging research and developments.

Juan P. Hinestroza, a US Fulbright Scholar and a certified Project Management Professional, is the Rebecca Q. Morgan ’60 Professor of Fiber Science & Apparel Design, and directs the Textiles Nanotechnology Laboratory at the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University. Hinestroza works on understanding fundamental phenomena at the nanoscale that are of relevance to fiber and polymer science. Hinestroza is an inventor of more than 33 granted international patents; an author of over 100 peer-reviewed articles and 5 book chapters; and an editor of a seminal book on cellulose-based green composites. His pioneering work has enabled the creation of three start-up companies, and he has served as a consultant to major Fortune 50 corporations and investment banks in the field of smart and interactive textiles and fibers.

Alissa Sandra Baier-Lentz is the cofounder and COO of Kintra Fibers, a materials science company that provides apparel brands with performance oriented, 100 percent bio-based and compostable fibers. By leveraging renewable chemistries and utilizing a cradle-to-cradle mindset during resin development, Kintra’s proprietary materials decarbonize the synthetic textile value chain and eliminate microfiber pollution from our oceans and soils. A fashion industry entrepreneur, Baier-Lentz grew frustrated by the transparency issues, misinformation, and challenges sourcing a planet-friendly material. She joined nanoengineer Billy McCall to provide brands with farm-to-fabric traceable materials that make no compromise between performance, price, and the planet. Kintra is backed by the innovative fashion brand PANGAIA, Tech Council Ventures, FAB Ventures, and the Chemical Angel Network, and has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, the Sourcing Journal, the Interline, and on the innovation stage at Milan Fashion Week, among others.

Nurcan Atalan-Helicke is associate professor in the environmental studies and sciences program at Skidmore College. She is an interdisciplinary social scientist and teaches courses on political ecology, politics of food, and human rights and development. She worked professionally with nonprofit organizations and a government agency in Turkey and implemented projects related to environmental education, conservation, and rural development. Her research lies at the intersection of food production and access to clean, healthy food and focuses on the conservation of agricultural biodiversity in Turkey, genetically modified food from an Islamic perspective, and gender dimensions of food consumption. Her research has been published in Agriculture and Human Values, Global Environmental Politics, Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development, Gastronomica, and Sociology of Islam. She co-curated the 2019 exhibition Like Sugar at the Tang Teaching Museum.

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