Unexpected Art Workshops

Unexpected Art

Art often shows up in unexpected places. Carved woodwork, a brass hinge, a painted feather, or a circuit board can become an evening dress — if you know how to look at them. Join us as we dig deep into the collections and find pieces that have been hidden away, unnoticed, or overlooked. Drawing inspiration from these forgotten objects, artist Becka Rahn will lead a hands-on workshop transforming unexpected items into new pieces of art. In the workshop, we will use cut paper and digital tools to create surface designs that will be printed onto fabrics. You will keep a swatch of your own custom fabric from the workshop and your designs will be included in a community art exhibition in 2017, celebrating art in unexpected places. Hennepin History Museum • January 26-April 30


I don’t have any workshops scheduled for Summer 2017 yet, but if you are interested in one, please contact me. I am happy to put together an activity for a small group of friends or art guild members.


Thanks to Hennepin History Museum, The Museum of Russian Art and the the Bakken museum for hosting the workshops in 2016 and being my partners for this project.

About the project

Several years ago I was approached by the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum for a project that they were working on in an effort to bring some new life and relevance to their collection. They asked artists to respond to a piece in their collection and these pieces and artistic responses (poems, essays, art) became an online exhibition called Look At It This Way. Several years later, I created two more pieces inspired by a woodwork detail and a feather fan from the collection at Hennepin History Museum.

I loved the idea of looking for museum pieces that were overlooked, forgotten, ignored or maybe were just too odd to be on display in a typical exhibition. That was the start for this project.

dots 2In November and December 2016, I will be hosting a series of workshops creating fabric designs inspired by forgotten objects. I have worked with the curators at each of the museums to find things that “don’t get out much” from the collections. I looked especially for things that had no real connection to textiles. I love that juxtaposition of using woodwork or metal hinges to inspire a fabric surface design. Students in the workshops will create their own patterns inspired by those objects. I will print each of those designs on fabric and participants will get a swatch mailed to them after it’s printed.

I will also be creating my own designs, inspired by the same forgotten and overlooked objects, and making wearable garments from those fabrics. My garments and swatches from the community workshops will all be displayed together in an exhibition at Hennepin History Museum in their “Is it History or is it Art?” gallery. The exhibition will celebrate art in unexpected places and give a peek at some unusual pieces hidden away in the collections at each of these museums.

The Artist Initiative Grant I received from the MN State Arts Board is what makes this project possible. I was able to purchase six laptop computers, giving me a mobile computer lab so that I can bring these kinds of workshops into the community. Grant funding covered the workshop costs so that we could make these workshops affordable for both the participants and the partner organizations that I am privileged to work with. This grant also makes it possible for me to create a body of work and put together my first major solo exhibition as an artist. I can’t put a value on that kind of opportunity. Many thanks to the State Arts Board and the voters of Minnesota, who make this funding possible. We live in an amazing community.

I have finished the workshops that were part of this grant, but the project lives on! Because people loved the unexpected art workshops so much, I have hosted several more since the project wrapped up. If you are interested in participating in a workshop with a group of friends or colleagues, please email me and I would be happy to put something together for you.

Here are videos from the workshops sponsored by the MSAB grant.

For Workshop Participants

Order more fabric.

Here is a quick tutorial that I made for you to help you upload and order more of your design (or other designs you make.)

Make something.

You will each be getting your swatch of fabric from the workshop very soon! What can you do with a swatch of fabric? Here are a collection of tutorials for things that just take a small amount of fabric. Make something awesome and show off your fabric design.


screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-2-50-18-pm screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-2-50-25-pmBecka Rahn is a fiscal year 2016 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.


Sign up for my e-newsletter to see tutorials, events, upcoming classes and more.

%d bloggers like this: