When I first saw Sharron Parker’s pieces hung on the walls at Triangle Community Foundation’s office, I had two thoughts: first, they are so intrinsically beautiful, and second, I really want to touch them! And I wasn’t alone. One of my colleagues said she wanted to curl up inside one!

“Expressing Reality as Felt” features large, colorful, textured handmade felt pieces. As Sharron explains, “I use the ancient technique of feltmaking to capture something I’ve experienced, whether it’s very solid –I’m really drawn to rocks — or ephemeral, like reflections on water.” To create her art, Sharron uses a very old but relatively simple technique — “combing, layering, and working dyed unspun wool in hot water until the fibers lock.”

As an artist, Sharron is inspired by nature and her travels to places around the globe. She originally began working with handmade felt as a medium after visiting an exhibit of 2,500-year-old felt artifacts at the Hermitage Museum in Russia in the 1980’s. “Expressing Reality as Felt” is a clever play on words, but also a nod to Sharron’s favorite quote by American artist Robert Motherwell: “The function of the artist is to express reality as felt.”

Exhibits like this are part of the Triangle Community Artists Gallery, a partnership between Durham Art Guild and Triangle Community Foundation. As part of the Foundation’s focus on regional cultural arts, our office space also serves as a rotating art gallery to support and foster local artists and to encourage our community to connect and engage in meaningful conversation inspired by art.

As the Program Officer for the Foundation’s Cultural Arts focus area, I was thrilled to learn that I’d be involved in helping keep this beautiful program going strong. That means I get to work with the talented team at Durham Art Guild, which receives a grant to coordinate the exhibition. Executive Director Katie Seiz organizes an annual juried call for art to select two artists who each receive a $1,000 stipend for a six-month exhibit. Then, Gallery Assistant Dara Baldwin expertly installs the pieces, using the Foundation space to beautifully feature the artists’ work. And, we try to purchase a piece from each exhibit for the Foundation’s own collection.

Thanks in part to the success of Triangle Community Artists Gallery, Durham Art Guild has formalized their services into their Art@Work program, which connects artists to local business for mutually beneficial opportunities.

If you haven’t seen Sharron’s handmade felt pieces yet, you should. And you can if you attend the public opening reception with the artist, hosted by Triangle Community Foundation and Durham Art Guild, on Thursday, October 24th from 5–7pm.

Because we at the Foundation were so intrigued by how the pieces felt (so much so that Dara had to come put up “Please do not touch the art” stickers!), Sharron has graciously agreed to bring some handmade felt samples to the reception so attendees who share our desire to touch the art can do so without compromising Sharron’s pieces. We can’t wait!

This event is open to the public, but we’d love a head count so we can provide snacks. We invite you to RSVP here if you can join us for the reception.

Contributing writer is Sarah Guidi, Program Officer at Triangle Community Foundation.