Lighting Up the Libraries

working with paper

PAA Artist-Educator Ben Horvat (right) works with a student at a recent wearable technology workshop at the Gates Mills branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library.

This fall Progressive Arts Alliance has teamed up with the Cuyahoga County Public Library to host a series of wearable technology workshops. Students learn the basic physics of circuits, fiber optics, and the almost endless applications of paper as a material, all while making something that is personally useful to them. It is amazing to see what the students can come up with after just a short 35-55 minute demonstration on LEDs, fiber-optics, and paper-craft. Some have created awesome props like jetpacks, a light disk (like from TRON) and one of my personal favorites, a woven paper constellation map where the ends of the fiber-optics acted as stars. It it wonderful and inspiring to watch these creations unfold.


As a practicing artist and designer who makes technology-integrated reactive clothing and costumes, it has been eye opening to see  the students realize their ideas quickly and unhindered by overly complicated things. As my practice has been refined and has become more of a repeating process than exploration, it is sometimes hard to keep the work fresh and original. Seeing how carefree and fun these mini-projects are for the students reminds me that there needs to be playfulness in making. One has to be able to explore with materials, test, try, and remake until they find something worth putting hours and hours of process into. In the same way I act as a guide for the students through their learning of the technical aspects of making, the students act as a reminder for me about the joys of art making and what originally inspired me to become an artist.

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