Art is life, as the poet said, but art is not always everything. Art can be a means to an end, a way to hone interpersonal skills, a way to network, to explore career options, or even learn a new language.
Art can often be perceived as an individual journey wherein one person, working in isolation, develops their own artistic skills in order to broadcast their singular vision to a wide audience.
But two of this year’s fellows at the Union for Contemporary Art, 2423 N. 24th St., make one great team called Tūdūsō, and together they are approaching their tenure in a slightly different way. Tūdūsō are not just individual artists making beautifully designed clothing with natural dyes—they are explorers in the art of collaboration.
Tūdūsō (pronounced tuh-do-so) are Victoria Hoyt and Demetria Geralds. According to their bios from the Union, the two artists explore cross-disciplinary approaches to naturally dyed textiles and garments as well as sow the seeds of education through teaching exhibitions, entrepreneurship, and outreach. Tūdūsō works to create new spaces of possibility by honoring what takes time, from making items by hand to building relationships. Tūdūsō is not only their name, it is their mission: To do sewing and sowing in all of their projects.
“We like to think of our collaboration as more than just the design,” says Hoyt, whose artistic skill set is working with natural dyes. “When we applied to the union we wanted to focus on collaborations in general, of how to collaborate and how to be a designer/artist duo. You have to negotiate space, you have to figure out not only schedules and time and goals, you have to have somebody you’re accountable to.”
Finding the rhythm that makes working together a success is what’s most important for Geralds.
“We’ve known each other for a few years now. But we’re still just finding our rhythm in this space,” she says, referring to their studio at the Union, which is crowded with the accoutrements of fashion: swatches, thread, dying equipment, and hand-crafted clothing in various stages of completion. “There’s this place where you kind of come together. It’s right there in that middle space. Where your sweet spot is. It’s what we’re talking about now as we’re doing a mood board. Victoria is on the natural dye side. I’m on the fashion design side. So where we overlap is where is our sweet spot is.”
According to Hoyt, Tūdūsō is “all about documenting the process” of collaboration, a major component of experiential learning, which is more than just a matter of learning on the job or hands-on experience. Reflecting on the experience is a key component. Taking note of that process in and for the community is part of this year’s mission for the Union and Tūdūso.
An example of this sort of community engagement is found in Joslyn’s Fashion Arts Mentor Program at Yates Community Center, where Geralds has been the mentor for the past two years. This program is designed specifically for high school students with a refugee background.
According to Joslyn’s website, many parents, including those of the museum’s students, want to see their children succeed in recognizable benchmark careers such as law or medicine and overlook the possibilities that an education in the arts can provide including entrepreneurship, leadership, and other practical skillsets.
“Many times, families will want children to go into careers that ‘make sense’ like doctors, nurses, and so on. So to become a fashion designer is major because they have to present it to their family and the family has to be in agreement,” Geralds says, adding that witnessing families as they see their children’s talents come through is “kind of cool.”
“The artistic qualities that are in them come to the surface and leadership qualities come to the surface, too, but it’s not just about art all the time, it’s something bigger, more than just learning to sew, it’s everything that you bring to the table.”
Hoyt uses natural dyes, so gardening is one of the ways she plans to work in the community with a focus on neighborhood gardening, landscaping, and dye gardens. Native plants can be used in dye-making so collaborating with other Nebraska gardeners is a good fit.
Tūdūsō works to gain greater acceptance for artistic collaborators in a world where artists seem to gain more from their individual efforts than from their partnerships.
“Collaboration is not really rewarded,” Hoyt says. “Individuals get grants, individuals get titles, and you have to really make room. I just got invited to a show and I want to do that with Demetria so it’s both of us, but I feel like that takes a little bit of pushing.”
“We’ve had some moments along the way, but we iron them out,” Geralds says. “Every collaboration is not able to do that, but I’m glad that we are.”
“We continually try to figure out different opportunities and ways to keep going,” Hoyt says. “I’m very clear what Demetria’s goals are and as long as the collaboration is going toward that, it’s good. But as it starts going this way, we have the choice to make different decisions.”
“Not everybody is cut out for collaboration,” Geralds says, “but then every collaboration can go in many different directions. We wanted to be an example of good collaboration. Victoria might collaborate with artists completely different from fashion design, and I might collaborate with artists completely different from natural dye. We want to push artists to see themselves mixed with other artists that they would never even consider.”
Visit u-ca.org for more information.
This article was printed in the July/August 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.