Ruth Funk Center promotes understanding of textiles


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The current exhibit, “Forced to Flee,” demonstrates the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts’ relevance in bringing current topics — from human conflict to natural disaster — to the public through the medium of textiles.

Courtesy of Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts

“It’s a hidden gem,” said a staff member with a twinkle in her eye as she bade farewell to a satisfied visitor to the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts.

This textile museum, together with a small gift shop, uniquely blends art, education and fun.

Located on the campus of the Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech), the Center is the first and only one of its type in the state of Florida, states its brochure.  The mission of the museum is to “promote the cultural understanding and appreciation for textiles, fiber arts and associated objects within the university and surrounding communities.”

In August, the Center will celebrate its 10th anniversary.

“We’d love to move from hidden gem to crown jewel to increase our profile,” said Keidra Navaroli, the assistant director and curator.

Opened in 2009, The Center is the product of a vision of its benefactor Ruth Funk, after whom it is named. Friends of Funk, who died at age 93, continue to be strong supporters of the Center, as well as a mixture of community and students who visit.

The current exhibit, “Forced to Flee,” demonstrates the Center’s relevance in bringing current topics — from human conflict to natural disaster — to the public through the medium of textiles.

Thirty-six artists from around the world were invited to respond to the refugee crisis. Using a variety of fabrics such as life preservers washed up on the shores of Greece, the result is as emotionally evocative as it is informative.

The Center balances its exhibitions of socio-political themes with fun subjects. For example, visitors posed with masks and signs with expressions of personal attitudes. And in another, visitors had the opportunity to fold an origami bird (materials and instruction provided).

The Center runs a docent training program and other volunteer opportunities. Sandy Thomas, a long-time volunteer, said she loves being a volunteer.

“I gladly pay to be here” — a humorous reference to her also being a member of the Center.

A day at the museum would be complemented by a visit to the adjacent Botanical Gardens and a meal at Florida Tech’s cafeteria.

With easy access from Florida Tech’s Babcock Street parking lot, the museum is open every day except Sunday and Monday. Admission is free. For information, call 321-674-8313.

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