SMC Hosts Artist Ann Wenz and Her Textile Mill Inspired Collection
This spring Ellis Hall Gallery is lined with the textile and fiber artwork of Ann Wenz, tangible callbacks to the rich history of Spartanburg Methodist College and the textile industry that shaped the Upstate for decades.
"Ann Wenz: A Retrospective Fiber Art Show" will be on display until March 20. A reception with the artist will be held at 4 p.m. Feb. 20. All are welcome.
Wenz served as an art professor at SMC for 34 years before retiring in 2009, and she was involved in the architectural and design planning for Ellis Hall – SMC’s academic building built in 2012 which hosts classrooms for the arts and humanities, as well as a 275 seat theater and book store.
Wenz said she hopes her work – a collection of intricate weavings from roughly the past 25 years – helps spark interest in today’s students who may not be familiar with the textile industry and its relationship to the college.
“This college is unique,” Wenz said. “So, I hope the students who see the exhibit come to appreciate the history of this college and their place in it.”
Founded as the Textile Industrial Institute in 1911 by Dr. David English Camak, a Methodist minister, the school initially offered high school-level courses to area textile workers. Students would work at a mill one week and go to classes the next.
Eventually, the Institute began offering two-year associate degrees, becoming Spartanburg Junior College in 1942 and later, in 1974, Spartanburg Methodist College.
The works of Wenz's former students frequently grace the halls of the gallery, said Professor of Art and Director of Interdisciplinary Studies Kris Neely. Neely said he remembered when Wenz taught in a classroom in Walker Hall that’s a quarter of the size of SMC’s current art studio.
"What she accomplished in that small classroom is remarkable," Neely said. "We are beneficiaries of Professor Wenz's arduous work to build and grow the arts opportunities for our students at SMC."
Wenz said her love of fiber and fabric goes back to when she was a little girl, designing clothes for her dolls. Her elaborate weavings today show a skilled and patient hand, guided by years of experience. A 20-by-20-inch weaving can take as much as 50 hours to complete.
Wenz grew up in Michigan, earning her bachelor’s degree in art education at Western Michigan University. She taught high school art for eight years before moving to South Carolina with her husband. That was her first exposure to Southern mill towns and culture. Wenz earned her master’s degree at the University of South Carolina.
“We are excited to invite Professor Wenz back to SMC to show her work,” Neely said. “Textiles have always been woven into our legacy at Spartanburg Methodist College, and Ann Wenz was a gifted artist and educator who made sure we never lost sight of that important thread through her work and in her art.”
Ann Wenz's original art made from fiber, fabric and paper.