Peek Into the Past: Immerse Yourself at Florida Tech’s Textile Arts Center
By: Shawna S. Kelsch

Textiles – from those used in hats, to jewelry, to floor weavings and wall tapestries, to dresses and tribal costumes, and from coverlets and lace handkerchiefs to bow ties and undergarments – all tell a story of the times: when they were made, where they were made, and how they were made.

Those snippets of information come together to narrate a chapter about the culture from where the textile came from, in a story that began with the dawning of man and his use of tools to create the first blanket or body covering or hat or pair of shoes.

To gain insight into life (and cloth) before us, a visit to the Ruth Funk Textile Arts Center on the campus of Florida Tech is a must-see that’s free. (No charge for entry, as with the Foosaner Arts Museum in downtown Eau Gallie).

This beautifully designed modern museum has been drawing the arts and fundraising crowds since 2009, when the center opened in the name of its founding benefactor, Ruth Funk, a longtime Melbourne resident, prolific textiles designer and collector and adamant advocate of the arts.

Funk, who passed in 2015 at the age of 92, was active until the month before her passing, living her dream of introducing others to the fascinating worlds that unfold under the green tweed of a wool suit or the silk lace of a flapper’s dress.

On May 20, a new exhibition titled “Flora & Fiber,” which has been curated from the center’s permanent collection, will explore the use and depiction of flowers and foliage in fiber art, and will present the botanical sources, application and iconography in textiles from three continents, highlighting Asian textiles’ profound and enduring influence on the development of modern fashion and design. The exhibit runs through Aug. 26.

In the fall, from Sept. 16 to Dec. 16, “Cloth as Community: Hmong Textiles in America” will illustrate the profound relevance of textiles as infrastructure in the Hmong culture, an art form that shifted as it adapted to fit new realities. The Hmong peoples are an ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.