A group of women recently used unusual material to make paper in workshops at Hite Art Institute’s fiber studio: their military uniforms.

Athena’s Sisters, an organization of military women seeking to connect and heal through art, came to Hite to learn papermaking for their new Fiber Art Exhibit that opens Friday.

Some chose to use pieces of their uniforms “to reclaim their experiences – maybe their experience wasn’t positive – to make something positive with it,” said Lindsay Gargotto, founder and executive director of Athena’s Sister and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

The exhibit, at Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church, 4936 Brownsboro Rd., celebrates the organizations 3rd anniversary, and will feature work from about 15 women. It will be on display throughout the month of February. 

Veterans from Athena’s Sisters participate in a paper-making workshop at Hite Art Institute

The group has done exhibits in the past exploring other mediums – like photography – but chose to work with fiber arts this year. Coincidentally, Maggie Leininger, assistant professor of fiber arts reached out to them. Leininger, who is the director of the International Honors Quilt, a collaborative, grassroots feminist art project by Judy Chicago that’s housed at UofL, thought there could be some natural synergy between the quilt collection and Athena’s Sisters.

“I thought the International Honors Quilt project could be a good model for the creative process,” she said.

Wendy Dunleavy, a part-time faculty member at Hite, led about 20 women from Athena’s Sisters in paper-making workshops.

“They loved making paper. The process speaks of our life experiences. There’s no one way to heal, there are layers to it,” said Gargotto, who is also a 2008 alum from UofL’s Women and Gender Studies program.

The exhibit opening is 6-9 p.m. Friday and is free and open to the public. Appetizers and desserts will be served.

Niki King
Niki King Jones is positive she has the best job at the University of Louisville, serving the communication needs of the departments of fine arts and theatre, the School of Music, University Libraries and Alumni – all the fun, creative stuff. Before coming to UofL in 2015, Niki held communication positions in both private and nonprofit sectors in Louisville, Ky., including at Heaven Hill Distilleries and the Jewish Community of Louisville. For 10 years prior, she was a reporter at various newspapers across the country, most recently The Courier-Journal. Niki graduated from the University of Memphis with a BA in journalism and has a masters degree in community and leadership development from the University of Kentucky.