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The Hundred Dresses art project and exhibit ends July 23

July 11, 2019
By BARBARA C. BARRETT , The Luminary

WILLIAMSPORT - A riveting exposition of colorful dresses all lined up together will be on display until July 23 at The Gallery at Penn College. This powerful exhibit is an expression of art that sprung from the story of Eleanor Estes' classic book written in 1944, "The Hundred Dresses". The traveling exhibit was organized by artist Crystal Cawley from New England.

Cawley visited school districts in Lycoming County and met with the art teachers who worked with their students in grades 3 through 5 to design their own dress. The story itself is about an immigrant school girl who is teased by her classmates because she wears the same dress to school every day. The story explores many themes from self accepance to inclusion, art, courage and empathy. "This project reminds us that we must do better for the sake of all children," Cawley announced at an opening reception held at The Gallery on June 6.

As visitors walk into the gallery they will see a three dimensional display done by 4th grade Montgomery students and their art teacher Bess Lowry. On one of the dresses there is a note from student Shawn Pysher that reads, "I chose this word to represent the idea of kindness and welcoming others because when you welcome someone, you would be their friendship."

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This 3 dimensional display can be seen in the 100 Dresses Project at the entrance of The Gallery at Penn College. It was made by 4th grade students from Montgomery Elementary School in Bess Lowry’s art class.

There are many underlaying elements in the exhibit and a grant was acquired from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts for Cawley to work with the art educators and students. She worked with 6 districts in Lycoming County who accepted her invitation. "We have over 1,000 small dresses from young artists," she said. Each young student used a dress template and the book, markers and paint were provided.

Art director, Penny Lutz from The Gallery at Penn College said she first saw the exhibit in 2017 and wanted to bring it to Lycoming County. She said she started working on it three years ago. "Art and literature were modeled together with good behavior," she said.

Cawley is an artist who works with paper, textiles, collected objects and re-purposed materials. At the exhibit she designed a three dimensional play board with felt so that visitors can design a dress while there. Prior to the exhibit, workshops were held with the grades at their school with guidelines on how to make the hanging dresses. They are with the exhibit of Cawley's original collection that started in Portland, Maine with 150 professional artists.

A camp was held for grades 4 through 7 on June 17 and 18 related to the exhibition of the Hundred Dresses Project. East Lycoming, Montgomery, Muncy, Jersey Shore, Williamsport and South Williamsport schools participated.

The Gallery will be closed from July 3 to July 7 but will be open after that from Tuesday through Thursday from 10 to 5 and on Fridays from 10 to 1. Admisison is free. For more information call 570-320-2445.



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