To mark its tenth anniversary, the Weaving and Fiber Arts Center is moving from its location in the Village Gate in downtown Rochester to Piano Works Mall.
The center, which has grown into an educational space for people of all ages to learn everything from knitting, dyeing, weaving, and even making baskets, first began as an outreach of the Weavers’ Guild of Rochester. The guild held classes at the Rochester Museum and Science Center taught by Margaret Carr and Joyce Robards, but in 2002, the program was shut down.
When classes stopped, the looms and weaving equipment needed a place to stay. So a small group of volunteers asked the RMSC and Weavers' Guild for permission to have the guild loan them the equipment after they found a place for it.
It didn’t take long for the center to become an artistic hub for expert weavers and curious beginners, and it continues to function as a non-retail, non-profit outreach of the guild.
“We are offering the community of Rochester and surrounding communities the opportunity to learn weaving and fiber arts,” said course planning director, Susan Nimeh.
From the Village Gate, the center became popular within its first year — almost 300 people enrolled in more than 40 different classes. It started as a one-room studio, but the volume of students and classes led the organizers to adopt the room next door.
But being hidden on the fourth floor made the space less visible for passersby, and it became tiresome to move the bulky looms from one room to the next. So, when the opportunity to move to a 2,200 square-foot space in East Rochester, the management decided to go for it.
The new site used to be a catering business, so in addition to a spacious front area there is also a back room, called the “wet room” with sinks and burners that can be used for dyeing.
Making the transition from their previous location was a quick one, as classes wrapped up on Aug. 20 and everything set for classes to start in East Rochester on Sept. 6. Although it was a quick switch, the organizers say they are happy to have a new home. The staff consists of eight volunteer managers and 19 paid teachers, and anyone can sign up for are 95 different courses being offered through the end of the year, with more to come in the spring.
With four separate rooms, including a meeting place and small library, it’s more than just a place to knit scarves, socks and baby booties. It’s a meeting place that general coordinator Sallie Schafer says will be a fun social environment for many creative minds.
“We’re very optimistic about this new space,” she said.