A Mesmerizing Effect: ‘Woven Treasures’ At The Waldron

By Rachel Lyon

Posted September 20, 2011

“Each one of these carpets has the effect of calming me. I just love to look at them. I’m sort of mesmerized by them.”

This weekend at the Lotus World Music & Arts Festival, thousands of people will gather in Bloomington to listen to music from all over the world. But just off the beaten path, a quiet exhibition space at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center may provide a respite for those seeking a quieter space.

Treasures Of All Stripes

Woven Treasures is the name of a current exhibit at the Ivy Tech Waldron. It features a number of village, tribal, and nomadic textiles from the Middle East and Central Asia—but its treasures aren’t just woven.

The collection belongs to George Malacinski, a Professor Emeritus of Biology at Indiana University, and an avid collector. “We’ve got carpets on the floor, we’ve got out lute, we’ve got our crib with our baby, and some Turkemen decorations hanging inside the tent.”

“George has worked with our gallery director in bringing the rugs in. He has an extensive collection of international rugs that he keeps at his house.” Paul Daily is the Artistic Director at the Ivy Tech Waldron. Of Malacinski, he says, “He was excited to exhibit them at the Waldron, and to have that international tie with Lotus.”

Old Friends

Daily says Ivy Tech has had a long relationship with the Lotus Festival: Their chancellor was on the Festival advisory board from 2005-2010, and meanwhile the founding director of the Festival is on the advisory committee for the Ivy Tech Waldron. Under the auspices of the college, the Waldron is devoted to education.

“The building has transferred from being a community arts center that supported the arts to being a college building that allows the arts to happen here. However, we welcome the community in, so we do open our doors.”

A Colorful Tour

On a recent Thursday afternoon, George Malacinski showed a thoughtful group around the exhibit. His collection showcases treasures from Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekestan, and the Caucus Mountains. It’s a perfect fit for The Lotus Festival, which is dedicated to showcasing music from around the world.

On one wall hangs a sheep’s wool rug from Northern Iran.  Stripes constructed of diamonds set with upright and inverted triangles alternate with stripes of vibrant red and cerulean blue.

On another wall hangs a dark blue horse blanket from Persia, framed by stripes of yellow, red, green and black, and decorated with appliquéd red and yellow polka-dots.

By the window hangs a long, camel-colored rug from South Central Turkey— the only one in the collection that is in fact made of camel’s wool, and features delicate embroidery with complex, maze-like patterns on either edge.

This weekend, while the bustle of musicians and visitors fills the streets of Bloomington with energy and sound, in this gallery visitors in search of more contemplative spaces will find some quiet. “Each one of these carpets has the effect of calming me,” Malacinski tells the group. “They’re woven from the heart. I just love to look at them. I’m sort of mesmerized by them. To some people, music has this effect.”

Instruments For Visual, Not Aural, Appreciation

Sitting on the window sill are four silent instruments: two stringed instruments, a drum and a flute. The visitors gather around as Malacinski taps on the drum and plucks one of the stringed instruments.

“I acquired this as a cultural artifact, and believe it or not it never occurred to me to [strum it]. And my daughter, who was about ten years old at the time, she just picked it up and her first impulse was to do this, and she did it again.”

As an American viewer in the twenty-first century, it’s hard not to come to these artifacts with a sense of exploration, curiosity about other worlds. Encouraging that curiosity is what the Lotus Festival is all about. Here at the Ivy Tech Waldron, it can be indulged in just a little more quietly


About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.