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Reupholstery Exhibit Hopes to Unzip Thoughts for Viewers and Gary
Jan 25 – Feb 07, 2024

In honor of Black History Month, the Marshall J. Gardner Center for The Arts is featuring the work of artist and upholsterer Jamika Smith. The exhibit of 17 artistically reupholstered chairs opens Friday, February 2 and closes Friday, March 8 in Gary.

Upholstering can be tedious and complicated, Smith says. “But once you start to pull back the layers and figure out how the original craftsperson installed the wadding and covering, you tend to realize that it’s not as complicated as it seems.” She likens the craft of reupholstering to mental therapy and the “pulling back our own layers” to discover ourselves.
“Just because something is old, doesn’t mean it needs to be dismantled and trashed,” she continued, “it can be the opportunity for creativity and work.”
The Chicago native added a zipper to the back of each reupholstered chair. The fastening opens into a short story about the challenges Africans have gone through since the 1300s.

She hopes that viewers of the exhibit, aptly named Blooming Out of Trauma, will find one the stories worth asking questions about, discussing, or the motion for later inquiry. “If I get one person to do that, then I have done my job,” she says.

The exhibit in Gary’s Miller Beach Arts and Creative District on Lake Street will include more traditional visual arts hung along the walls and made by an intergenerational group of artists she calls her friends. “It is good to have a village of like minded individuals that I can be creative with,” says Smith who also runs a non-profit, Teena’s Legacy.

Teena’s Legacy in named after Alberteen (Teena) Stredrick, her Arkansas born grandmother.  Stredick was an avid furniture restorer while living in Smith’s place of birth. 

Smith made Gary her home in 2014, but after two years in the Steel City, she moved to Georgia for six years of escalating rent. After moving back to Gary in 2021, it has taken her more than a year to pull the exhibit together. Moving back Gary “to a house that was already paid for made economic sense,” she says.

It is also often makes sense to reupholster furniture than to buy new pieces. Smith adds that she teaches the non-profit’s participants that reupholstery can be more than a hobby, but an avocation, job, or business. “Just because something is old, doesn’t mean it needs to be dismantled and trashed,” she continued, “it can be the opportunity for creativity and work.” Her Lake Street debut will also show “how the arts can increase economic development and help the community grow by thinking outside the box.”
Opening Night: Fri Feb 2. 6p-8p
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