One of the most exciting experiences I’ve had this year was attending the Tbilisi Regional Art Festival -Degree & Profession in Tbilisi, Georgia. I was invited to present my project Journey of a Mixteco, which was my senior thesis at Parsons the New School of Design in 2008.
I went to the festival with Lydia Matthews, Dean of Academic Programs at Parsons and three other Parson’s alumni: Christopher Nesbit from Photography, Ida Benedetto from Design and Technology and Georgeana Ortiz from Fashion. It was Lydia’s sixth time in Tbilisi. Besides her work at Parsons she is a curator and has brought artists to the city before. We were the only American university invited to the event. This invitation was largely due to the relationship and passion that Lydia has with the Georgian country.
Several European universities were invited to participate. Unfortunately due to the volcanic ash, only Parsons and the Yerevan State University of Architecture and Construction from Armenia were able to attend. The event was hosted by the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts, but several schools from Tbilisi were involved. The Romualdo del Bianco Foundation was an instrumental sponsor of the event.
Most of our Parsons group flew from JFK. Some of us met for the first time at the airport. Ida, who is a Fulbright grantee in Ethiopia, flew from Addis Ababa to meet us.
We were able to work out a day stop in Istanbul before heading to Tbilisi. Istanbul is an incredible city, and it was a tease to be there for such a short time. Click here to see more photographs I took while in Istanbul.
The Tbilisi festival organizers were incredible hosts, especially Nana Iashvili the Dean of the Faculty of Art Media, who always looked after us. Plenty of food and wine were a must every day. During our visit we attended a variety of cultural events and were able to go sightseeing in the country on two occasions.
We visited Mtskheta, Bodbe and Sighnaghi.
I was really taken aback by the churches. They are very sparse, like caves and have wonderful Byzantine art. Being in such ancient places makes one realize how old the world is.
This is a link to more photographs
We we were in Tbilisi for 4 days total. On the second day Georgeana and I participated in a Shibori workshop. Shibori is a Japanese dying technique. The workshop was held at La Maison Bleue, a textile art studio established by five artists, all graduates of the Tbilisi State Academy of Art. The workshop instructor was Keti Kavtaradze. I got to meet her and Nino Kvrivishvili, also an artist at the studio.
The students that participated were from a variety of universities and from different disciplines, but mostly from textile design. These are the pieces that Georgeana and I produced.
Click here to see more photographs of the workshop.
On the last day of the festival we did the presentations of our thesis. Ida presented Lilliput, a photographic non-linear travel log. Chris showed his drawings of vanished buildings in New York imposed over photographs and videos of what stands there now. Georgeana showed a sustainable fashion collection inspired by the atmosphere and a best practice manual for sustainable fashion designers. I presented Journey of a Mixteco, a short graphic novel based on the true story of an undocumented Mexican worker that now lives in New York.
There were a number of Georgian students that that also presented their thesis, as did two of the Armenian students. Most of the other projects shown were in the fields of architecture and animation.
After the thesis presentations there was a break. Afterwards there was a presentation of the projects that were produced during the workshops. In most of the workshops a variety of students came together for a couple of days and put together a short presentation that addressed a topic. Many of them had to do with globalization, and many were a celebration of Georgian culture and heritage.
A fashion show followed, and afterward there was a ceremony to announce award winners.
Christopher won the award for the best design. And to my delight my project won the prize for the best presentation. I was thrilled. It is very encouraging to know that although my project is very specific to an area in the world it is able to transcend and to be appreciated and understood in a completely different part of the world. I really want to continue developing the project now. I am looking for grants. Suggestions for places to look into are very welcome.
It was a very special trip for me. I was able to connect with my Parsons peers through out the week and I was able to connect with some of the Georgian staff, faculty and students. They were very glad I won the award and that made the experience that much more memorable.
I know the Festival was being filmed for a program on Georgian TV. I would love to get a hold of that footage. It’d be very amusing to watch. I’m also looking for a youtube link to Mexican soap operas in Georgian. I saw a clip on TV for one of them at the hot baths…
The flight back to New York was brutal.