Judy Frater’s interdisciplinary arts residency events and exhibition “Coming Together: Culturally Inspired Creation” (April 20-May 27) at UW–Madison

headshot of resident artist Judy Frater

This spring semester, Judy Frater is the University of Wisconsin–Madison Division of the Arts’ interdisciplinary artist-in-residence. Judy Frater is a curator, author and school director who lived in the Kutch region in Northwest India for 30 years. An award-winning Ashoka Fellow, she founded a design school for artisans currently operating as Somaiya Kala Vidya and co-founded the Kala Raksha Trust and Museum. The residency is hosted by the Design Studies Department with Professor Jenny Angus as lead faculty. 

During the spring semester, Frater is teaching a 3-credit course “Cultural Diversity, Connection, Value, Sustainability – the Role of Hand Craft” (Design Studies 527: Global Artisans). The students in the course, majoring in textiles and fashion design, interior architecture, agricultural and life sciences, biomedical engineering and industrial engineering, are learning about important issues surrounding small-scale artisan production, value and sustainability. Working with artisan partners, they are developing valuable skills in craft techniques, design, quality control, branding, collaboration, empathy and story-telling. Kutch artisan designers Adil Mustak Khatri, Zakiya Adil Khatri, Irfan Anwar Khatri and Prakash Naran Siju virtually co-taught the studio craft sessions in weaving, block printing and natural dyes, bandhani (shibori) and Suf embroidery and coordinated the artisans partnering with students in the co-design segment. 

Throughout the residency, UW–Madison’s Center for Design and Material Culture (CDMC) has been a key supporter. Students explored the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection (HLATC) and referenced select textiles in the collection as inspiration for their co-designs. Textiles from HLATC and the co-designed products will be on display in the exhibition “Coming Together: Culturally Inspired Creation” from April 20-May 27, 2022 in the CDMC’s  Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery (1235 Nancy Nicholas Hall). Upcoming residency and partner events are on April 14, April 30 and May 3

Coming Together: Culturally Inspired Creation is a collaboration between traditional textile artisan designers in the Kutch region in northwest India and the group of 15 students in the course. The students learned about Indian textile traditions from the artisan designer co-faculty and through the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection. They developed concepts collaboratively through a co-design process that involved learning from their partners and their crafts. In addition to design skills, the process required excellent communication, empathy and respect, resulting in an appreciation of each other’s strengths and knowledge. The co-designed collection of textiles reflects the approaches of all the co-designers. There will be about 45 textiles on display in the exhibition.

“It has been a pleasure to explore the challenge of valuing hand craft in the contemporary world, and the importance of respect and collaboration with this group of thoughtful students, our insightful artisan designer co-faculty, and the CDMC team. In some ways, it is an exploration of the value of humanity in a world in which that seems to be eroding. I look forward to seeing this rich semester Coming Together in our exhibition!” states Judy Frater. 

Here are additional quotes from some of the artisans in India: 

“I was able to try a difficult two-sided tapestry weave (using three shuttles) that I had always wanted to do. I will gain value from this technique in the future.” – Bharat Vershi Jepar, weaver

“My co-design partner was from a background not familiar with textiles and craft. I learned how people from other backgrounds look at craft.” – Adil Mustak Khatri, bandhani artist

“In co-design, two minds and two different personalities work to create something new.  It is always interesting how your partner creates different ideas from the same inspiration.” – Zakiya Adil Khatri, bandhani artist 

Upcoming Events:

All of these events are open to the public and take place on the UWMadison campus. Events are subject to change. Please review go.wisc.edu/frater in advance. 

Thursday, April 14 | noon-1 p.m.
Coming Together: Culturally Inspired Creation talk from Judy Frater
206 Ingraham Hall, 1155 Observatory Dr. 

Judy Frater will be talking about the residency and the upcoming exhibition “Coming Together: Culturally Inspired Creation.” During the residency, students learned about value and the importance of hand craft and sustainability. In India, sustainable hand craft livelihoods are threatened by undervaluation. Each year artisans leave craft because it does not offer adequate income or recognition. Based on their experiences in the course, the students are producing an exhibition that presents their co-designed textiles inspired by textiles in the HLATC collections. Can they bring an audience to craft by creating value for it, and encourage more sustainable lifestyles? This talk is organized by the Center for South Asia, a residency sponsor. 

Saturday, April 30 | 1-4 p.m.
Trunk Show & Exhibition Reception 
The Link, First Floor, Nancy Nicholas Hall, 1300 Linden Dr. 

Co-design teams comprising the UW–Madison students and traditional artisans from Kutch, India have worked together this semester to present a public trunk show. The work being sold will consist of limited editions of the co-designed pieces featured in the exhibition, as well as pieces designed and produced by the artisans. During this time, the exhibition will be open and there will also be a reception. The textiles will be on sale through the Global Artisans Initiative.

Tuesday, May 3 | 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Public Presentations by Design Studies 527: Global Artisans Students
Wisconsin Idea Room (1199), Nancy Nicholas Hall, 1300 Linden Dr.

This semester, students in the Design Studies 527: Global Artisans course collaborated with traditional weaving, embroidery, block-printing and bandhani artists from the Kutch district of India. The students, in collaboration with the Center for Design and Material Culture, planned, designed and mounted an exhibition of their work co-created with their artisan designer partners. The students look forward to sharing their collaboration experiences throughout this class in a public presentation. This event will also be available via Zoom – register here. 

Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery Hours:

1235 Nancy Nicholas Hall, 1300 Linden Dr. 
Monday–Tuesday: closed
Wednesday: 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Thursday: 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
Friday: 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday: 12–4 p.m.


Judy Frater’s interdisciplinary arts residency is presented by the UW–Madison Division of the Arts and hosted by the Design Studies Department with Professor Jenny Angus as lead faculty. Residency supporters include the Art Department, Department of Art History, Bolz Center for Arts Administration, Center for Culture, History and Environment (CHE), Center for Design and Material Culture, Center for South Asia and Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

The UW–Madison Division of the Arts has hosted interdisciplinary artists-in-residence since 1995 and formally launched the Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program (IARP) In 1999. This program brings innovative artists to UW-Madison to teach semester-long interdisciplinary courses along with hosting public events. The program is made possible with funding from the university’s Office of the Provost.  


Judy Frater 

Living in the Kutch region in the Northwest part of India for 30 years, Judy Frater co-founded the Kala Raksha Trust and Museum. An award-winning Ashoka Fellow, she also founded the first design schools for artisans: Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya and its current structure Somaiya Kala Vidya. Previously, she was Associate Curator of The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. She is the author of “Threads of Identity: Embroidery and Adornment of the Nomadic Rabaris,” “The Art of the Dyer in Kutch: Traditional Block Printed Textiles: Culture and Technique (published in October 2021)” and numerous other publications. Frater also received the Sir Misha Black Medal for design education. Judy Frater’s longer biography can be found on her website: textileslive.com.