Lit Alumna Creates Art Out of Shoe Making
Amara Hark-Weber (Literary Arts 1999) has delved into many creative areas with her work since graduating from Perpich, most recently completing her MFA in Visual Communications at the School of Art Institute of Chicago and receiving a Jerome Fellowship through the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) in 2013. Hark-Weber has since located back to the Twin Cities and has been creating custom-made shoes and boots, as inspired by her MFA experience. Here she talks about the path of discovery she found from entering the program as a documentary photographer and leaving as a shoemaker and her experience working with Perpich.
Tell us about the work you did in your MFA program:
I just completed an MFA in Visual Communications at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It was a three year program in design, and I entered as a documentary photographer and writer with the hope of ‘designing’ my own work. I spent the first two years doing traditional graphic design — posters, and books, as well as letterpress books and objects. The last year I had a change of course, and studied shoemaking. I ended up doing my thesis project as seven pairs of handmade shoes and a video. The shoes were very sculptural and alter the way that one is able to walk. When seen together, were a narrative about recovery from physical trauma. Because of the non-traditional nature of the shoes, and the inter-disclipinary nature of the school, my project still fit into Visual Communications. It was, as far as I know, the first thesis done completely in shoes at the Art Institute.
You’ve done work with Perpich’s Arts and Schools as Partners (ASAP) program and the Multicultural Voices Initiative, as well as editing for the Teaching Artist Journal. Can you speak about that work and how you got involved with it?
I started doing projects with the Perpich several years ago. I don’t recall how we first started, but I believe that my backgrounds in development economics and documentary spurred projects in the public schools in Minneapolis. Those projects were extremely challenging, but I loved it. The students were spunky and fun, and always testing me, which I liked. We basically did different forms of documentary projects that explored their experiences and lifestyles. I also documented the work of other teaching artists, which put me in the classroom with at least 25 artists over the course of about a year. Some of these sessions went forward into deeper work at the Perpich, some stayed with the school district. Through the folks at the Perpich, I met the editors at Teaching Artist Journal. When a new section opened up there, Four Questions, I took over. This section highlights the work of teaching artists nationally and internationally. I try to find people who are strong leaders, do unusual projects, and think critically about both teaching and art making.
Anything else you’d like to add:
Every artist, and individual, must have the courage to withstand outside pressures, impulse to look back at and learn from their predecessors, empathy for oneself and others, and extreme stamina. That is my formula, and I’m hoping that it works!