LaVerne in Action!
Knit the Bridge is happy to introduce LaVerne Kemp
, our Community Organizer/Diversity Coordinator, a position funded by our Sprout Fund Seed Award. LaVerne will be focusing on getting the word out and following up with folk in many Pittsburgh communities with a specific focus on communities of color and senior communities. Along with her infectious attitude and long history of community arts work, LaVerne brings many creative ideas and new networks to our Knit the Bridge community. We’re excited to have her as a core team member!
1. What’s your history with Pittsburgh?
I moved to Pittsburgh when I was 13 years old from Cecil, Pa. My grandmother’s side of the family is from Homewood and Braddock . I lived here until I went away to school at California University of Pa and returned after graduation in 1976. I seem to have a lot of relatives here most of whom I’m not familiar with but who are familiar with other members of the family and have the same last name.
“Tree of Hope” Created by LaVerne and her students from the Homewood YWCA and Abraxas
2. What is your history with fiber art/community art?
I have an extensive background as a Teaching Artist/Resident Artist working with School & Community Programs at Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts for 15 years and, as such, through their Artist Residency Program in partnership with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
My work with these two well-established organizations/agencies as well as with other regional organizations such as Gateway to the Arts,The Children’s Museum, and the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council have provided me with many wonderful opportunities to work with diverse populations of all ages in Southwestern PA.
I have been a weaver and fiber artist for 35 years now. I make one of a kind hand woven clothing, accessories and jewelry out of my fabrics and I also create sculptural wall hangings and quilts. For the past five years I have also started felting. I have exhibited my works in many fashion shows and art exhibitions nationally.
3. What are you most excited about doing in the Community Organizer/Diversity Coordinator role?
I have been a part of other community projects in the past, especially those involving children but “Knit the Bridge” is one of the most
“Secrets Behind the Veil” by LaVerne Kemp
phenomenal and largest community projects Ive been a part of. I admire Amanda’s vision and how it is inclusive of the whole city and surrounding communities. What a wonderful way to stretch Pittsburgh’s arms out to the world especially since it will occur during Fiberart International. I especially like the idea of gifting the panels to the homeless shelters when the project is over. Pittsburgh is already a very warm city with very friendly people and I’m excited to see how this project will bring us even closer. I look forward to traveling around the city and introducing the project especially in the African American communities. I enjoy talking to people and getting them excited about the arts and how they can be a part of such a great project. I especially like to infect those who don’t think that they have any talent or abilities. I’m told I’m infectious that way! I enjoy my gift and I like to help others discover their abilities. I’m excited to see how many knitters there are by this time next year just because of this project!
4. What do you see as the challenges?
I think the challenges in a project of this size might be in contacting everyone that I hope to reach and keeping up with my schedule and promises. It’s too early to tell.
My personal challenge is that I’m a weaver not a knitter but I’m learning. Maybe one of my students can teach me how to be a better knitter!
Knitting at the Carnegie Museum
5. How can others help support your work with KtB?
I’m just beginning this position so as time goes on and I’m more accumulated to my responsibilities I will be able to reach out to others for assistance. Amanda has a very dedicated group of community leaders, knitters and volunteers all willing to lend a hand as needed . There are so many who want this project to be successful I’m certain that I’ll be able to find support as I need it.
“Holdin Back the Blues” Hand Made Paper and Weaving by LaVerne Kemp