34 3Arts supporters
$5,065 raised of $4,500 goal
0 Days 0:00:00 LEFT
Funded on May 08, 2016
    • 113% contributed

Openwork is a new performance piece that challenges the distinction between craft and art by magnifying the activity of knitting into a dance. An elaborate landscape is formed by dancers who use their limbs as knitting needles to create floor-to-ceiling textiles. At its heart, Openwork takes a political stance, advancing the cultural context of needlecraft and feminism by refusing to let go of crafting traditions, or to relegating them to a realm lower than “art.” As both a dancemaker and needlecrafter, I am excited to begin a new evolution in my work that combines choreographic and textile making to create original forms of expression. This project reimagines knitting and crochet as kinetic art forms that create concrete traces of the body's motion, exploring how movement and needlecraft can influence each other. These parallel processes will test the boundaries of how fiber arts and performance coexist, expanding possibilities for each element. Your contribution to this campaign will bring the project to life in June 2016 performances at Links Hall.

About This Project

The term “openwork” is used in needlecrafting to describe fabrics with an intentional pattern of gaps or openings. In this project, the knitted pieces created by the performers will move as living beings—they will be made, unraveled and rigged on pulleys to fly, drop, and swing. Openwork will create an immersive, touchable environment that surrounds the performers and audience. I wish to express a sense of openness quite literally by allowing audiences to put themselves physically inside the open spaces between fibers; and, more symbolically, by creating opportunities for people to learn to body knit and contribute their own textiles to the project.

Openwork is a re-imagining of a quilting bee (a social event with roots in the 19th century), during which American women gathered to work together on a single quilt. My performance reframes the feminine art of needlecraft and the movement of female bodies as vital creative actions, contradicting timeworn concepts of women and their “crafts” as passive, unnecessary, or decorative. My intention for Openwork is to expand the concept of decorative art and question the difference between art and craft.

I am developing this performance collaboratively with a cast of four dancers: Katie Matteson Campana, Megan Rhyme, Gretchen Soechting, and Laura Tennal. It will feature an original musical score composed by pianist Matthew Griffo and featuring cellist Leyla Royale. The four women who perform in Openwork work together to knit with their bodies, dance, and unmake their creations during the performance. Each body is an integral part of the textile building process. The environment exists through the industry of the performers.

One critical and ambitious element of this project is the design and fabrication of the rigging that will be needed to make the textiles “dance” and shift onstage with the performers. Funds raised through this campaign will help me hire a Technical Director for this purpose, as well as cover fees for the musicians and the dancers—paying these artists a fair wage for their time and talents.

This project is being developed over a three-year process that started in the Fall of 2014. The current phase will include public arm-knitting workshops (April 2016) and performances of the piece in progress at Links Hall (June 2016). Taking into account audience feedback from the June showing, the culminating phase will focus on a site-specific performance (2017).

Other partners helping me realize and fund this project include The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Links Hall, The Chicago Park District, and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. 

Thank yous

Contribute any amount or choose from the levels below.

  • $15
    A personalized thank-you on social media, with a project photo. ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $30
    A personalized video postcard from the "Openwork" cast, plus one line of crochet, labeled with your name, as part of a wall-hanging displayed at the performance. ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $50
    Your name in the "Openwork" show program, a personalized video postcard, and two lines of crochet, labeled with your name, as part of a wall-hanging displayed at the performance. ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $100
    Two tickets to the June 2016 "Openwork" performance of your choice, your name in the show program, and three lines of crochet, labeled with your name, as part of a wall-hanging displayed at the performance. ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $250
    An invitation to a post-show cocktail with the cast, two tickets to a June "Openwork" performance of your choice, your name in the show program, and four lines of crochet, labeled with your name, as part of a wall-hanging displayed at the performance. ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $500
    Everything at the above level, plus a body-knitted textile created by the cast of "Openwork" during a performance. ($0.00 is tax deductible.)

Rachel Damon

Rachel Damon weaves together roles as an arts maker and manager; she is a choreographer, dancer, needleworker, and theatrical designer. Co-founder and current Director of Synapse Arts, a dance-theater company established in Chicago in 2004, Rachel received the Albert P. …

View Rachel Damon's profile
  • Update 1: We've reached our match!
    Posted on March 30, 2016


    Thanks to the amazing generosity of our supporters, it only took 72 hours to reach our matching grant!

    We've already begun to thank 17 wonderful donors with video dance "postcards" and personalized photo posts. 


    Gretchen Soechting in "Openwork"

    This photo shows Gretchen Soechting, one of the Openwork ensemble members, dancing with the large-scale knitted pieces we've created. 

    Thank you all, and please spread the word!

    Update 2: First project performance
    Posted on April 12, 2016


    Thank you to everyone who attended the first work-in-progress showing of Openwork at The Chicago Cultural Center! It was a wonderful event that celebrated Chicago Dance Month 2016 by presenting many talented Chicago artists.

    Chicago Cultural Center Performance

    I'm looking forward to hosting a Chicago Dance Month partner event on Thursday, April 21. This will be an Open House for my company Synapse Arts, at our home studio as Arts Partners in Residence at Loyola Park.

    The Open House is completely free. It begins at 10:30am and continues throughout the day. It includes a free adult modern dance class taught by renowned teacher Kristina Fluty, a work-in-progress showing of Openwork, an arm-knitting workshop, refreshments, and an opportunity to observe children’s dance classes taught by Synapse teaching artists.

    You and your friends are very welcome to join us. Click here for more information and to register for the all levels arm-knitting workshop.

    Thank you for being a part of this project!

    Update 3: Our first arm knitting workshop
    Posted on April 25, 2016


    On April 21, my company Synapse Arts hosted a free Open House at our home studio. We taught dance classes for all ages and abilities, as well as our first arm knitting workshop.

    Everyone who learned to arm knit made amazing textiles! Many of those textiles were donated to become a part of the upcoming Openwork performances. 


    Synapse Arts Open House


    Openwork performances will take place at Links Hall on June 3, 4, and 5. Tickets are available here

    Many of you have earned free tickets as a part of your donation. We will be contacting you in May to arrange your tickets. 

    Thank you! 

    Update 4: Let's keep this momentum going!
    Posted on May 03, 2016


    We've achieved our main goal! 

    Thanks to the generosity of 28 amazing individuals, we have raised $4,500. We are working now to raise an additional $1,000. We have 5 days to reach a total of $5,500!

    These bonus donations will allow us to:

    Double our doily ($40) - buy 400 more feet of rope 

    Sweater the sandbags ($100) - we need to rent 6 sandbags for the pulley systems, and each will have a custom sweater!

    Costume the collaborators ($200) - upgrade our closet hunting to real costumes

    40% of donations from this point on will go directly to the dancers and 20% will go to the show staff. We are committed to paying our artists for every project. That pay does not always adequately reflect the hours they have put in, and so we are devoting 60% of our stretch goal to pay the personnel more. 

    Many thanks to each of you for your support!

    Megan Rhyme weaving

    Update 5: It's show week!
    Posted on May 30, 2016


    Join us at Links Hall this weekend, and see the first version of Openwork!

    June 3, 4, and 5 at 7pm

    At Links Hall - 3111 N. Western Ave, Chicago

    Openwork collage


    Openwork takes place in a touchable environment of floor-to-ceiling textiles, formed by the dancers who use their limbs as knitting needles. 

    These performances will inform the next stage of this multi-year project. Audiences can opt to be a part of the experiment. Choose a seat with a teal doily to be included in the action!


    $10, $20 - seating is limited, advance tickets are recommended

    The artistic team features performers Laura Tennal, Megan Rhyme, Katie Matteson Campana, and Gretchen Soechting, with original music by Matthew Griffo and Leyla I Royale. Dance artist and needlecrafter Rachel Damon is directing the project and designing the space in collaboration with lighting designer Sarah Lackner.

    Thank you for helping to make this project happen!

    Update 6: Thank you!
    Posted on June 15, 2016


    The first version of Openwork was a grand success!

    We had three performances at Links Hall, and each night garned great feedback, beautiful moments, and joyous audience involvement. 


    audiences enjoying the textiles


    The 3Arts supporter rewards and video postcards have all been sent. If you haven't received yours, please check your "spam" box or email to let us know.


    The next stage of Openwork has already begun! You can join the Synapse Arts email list to see how this multi-year project will develop. 

    Thank you very much.

    • Thank you to the following for contributing to 3Arts with the recommendation that we support this project.

    • Katherine Dreher

    • Margaret Reynolds

    • zachary crump

    • Jason Lord

    • John Reynolds

    • Jessica Heileman

    • Erica Mott

    • Matthew Griffo

    • Gretchen & Matt Damon

    • Samantha Spriggs

    • Stephen Spriggs

    • Mark Dreher

    • Susan Damon

    • Barbara Whitney

    • Andrea Halverson

    • Kevin Tennal

    • Rosie Lathrop

    • Pamela Crutchfield

    • Meida McNeal

    • Steve Dondelinger

    • Maria Gray

    • Annette Jonas

    • Annie Higgins

    • Ginger Farley

    • roxanne Matteson

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • conradine Sanborn

    • Anne Damon

    • Emily Wilson

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Anne Hodgson

    • Gretchen & Matt Damon

    • Terence Stanuch

    • Sendhil Revuluri

make it work


3AP Presenting Partner:

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 Additional support provided by: 

Department of Cultural Affairs logo  Illinois Arts Council