DeWitt: Art project focuses on oil, social awareness

More than 3,000 fabric panels cover an abandoned gas station located on East Colvin Street. Why? To make a striking visual statement about the world's dependence on oil and the price we pay at the pump. SU grad student Jennifer Marsh went from shearing sheep on a barn to founding this grass roots project she named the International Fiber Collaborative that just became non profit last week.

"This is all about creating social awareness, spreading it and connecting," she said. "It's really trying to get art out of the elitists realm and trying to bring it back where people can understand it and get involved and feel excited about it."

Marsh took out private loans and relied on personal donations in order to move forward with her vision, which was not an easy feat as a first time entrepreneur.

"I've never done any kind of collaborative piece like this," Marsh said. "Not having done this project before made it difficult to get sponsorship."

The total cost of the yearlong project came to almost $30,000.

"I didn't have a budget," Marsh said, adding that she winged it as she went. "You just make it happen and scrounge as much money as you can to make the first one."

She hopes any subsequent coverings will get sponsored as word gets out about her organization. Her plans are to take the wrap on the road to other communities, recycling the panels for bigger buildings and structures.

The finished product involved more than 450 individual artists from around the world and about 2,500 students mostly from Syracuse, she said. They created about 500 3' x 3' fabric panels and 3,000 square foot panels that were eventually stitched together to cover the vacant building. The Gear Factory in Syracuse then sprayed the panels with water repellent to help protect the pieces from the elements.

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