Local nonprofit Anchal Project is garnering exposure to an international audience through the Guggenheim Museum’s online store.
As part of a new exhibition highlighting the work of the Swedish artist Hilma af Klint, the Guggenheim Museum in New York City asked the Anchal Project and six other predominantly female designer groups to craft pieces for a capsule collection honoring af Klint.
“We’re thrilled,” said Colleen Clines, founder of Anchal Project. “It was such a great design project and collaboration, and they’ve been super supportive. It’s pretty much a dream project for sure.”
The Guggenheim Museum is showing af Klint’s art now through April 23, the first major solo exhibition in the United States dedicated to the artist.
“I think that we’re not only inspired by her visual talent, but as a female artist, she was striving to make a statement in the art world,” Clines said. “And that’s a huge inspiration to us, and her ability to share a narrative through her work and tell stories through her work, because that’s what we try to do in Anchal is share a narrative, tell a story about dreams of empowerment with our artisans, which is a big part of why we’re so connected to her work.”
Clines founded the nonprofit after visiting India and wanting to help make a difference in the lives of Indian women who are forced into sex work by poverty, their families, lack of education, extreme gender inequality and, generally, a lack of opportunities.
Anchal Project trains women artisans in textile design and craftsmanship, giving them a legitimate income. The program also provides education on money management, nutrition and more. All the women in the project have their own bank accounts and control of their own money.
Anchal Project also employs and trains two women in Louisville who are former sex workers. They just celebrated one year in the program, said Clines, whose sister Maggie Clines serves as Anchal Project’s creative director.
Af Klint, who was born in 1862 and studied at Sweden’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, began creating abstract paintings in 1906, long before other abstract artists came into fashion. She kept her paintings mostly private and even stipulated that her art was not to be shown until 20 years after her death. She felt the art world was not yet ready for her style.
Her series, “The Paintings for the Temple,” came from her belief in Spiritualism, a practice based on communication with the spirits of the dead through mediums. “Stylistically, (the paintings) are strikingly diverse, incorporating both biomorphic and geometric forms, expansive and intimate scales, and maximalist and reductivist approaches to composition and color,” the Guggenheim’s website states.
Gigi Loizzo, director of retail strategy and operations at the Guggenheim, said in a news release, “This group of artisans and designers have created a suite of distinctive wares that we enthusiastically look forward to sharing with our visitors as further evidence of Hilma af Klint’s capacity to foster daring and imaginative thinking that transcends convention.”
Anchal Project’s Spiral Quilt incorporated both “the color palette of Hilma with the ramps of the Guggenheim” turning the traditional craft of Indian blankets “into something modern and fresh,” she continued.
Anchal Project has now trained 425 artisans in India and employs about 150 of them. Most of the women who leave the project go on to other full-time jobs because of the training they received through the program. Some are even able to send their children to college to help break the cycle of generational exploitation.
This year, Anchal Project began selling its home goods through Anthropologie online, a huge step for the organization, Colleen Clines said. “The more we sell, the more women we can help.”
Anchal Project will host its annual holiday trunk show from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 15 at Whitehall, 3110 Lexington Road. The Guggenheim pieces will be on display, and Anchal Project’s other products also will be for sale.