Students create a ‘starry night’

Community art projects not only bring the community together, they also make the community a better place.

Betsy Roe, adjunct art instructor at Washburn University and associate curator at the Alice C. Sabatini Art Gallery in the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, is in charge of a new community art project called “Seams Like Van Gogh.” Last week, members of the community helped to build the recreation of the famous artwork.

“It’s a community art project, which means, it benefits the community and involves the community,” said Roe. “You don’t have to be an artist, it’s a participatory type of artwork.”

This project will be unveiled at October’s First Friday Artwalk Oct. 5, and will be available for viewing until Oct. 14 at  the Yeldarb  Gallery. Participating groups include Teens Taking Action and TSCPL Teen Advisory Board, with additional support from MB Piland, Yeldarb Gallery, NOTO artists and Topeka Rescue Mission.

“The clothing that’s been donated was initiated by the teens taking action, so it’s incorporating things that are already existing in the community,” said Roe. “Then the clothing goes to the Topeka Rescue Mission. We are getting lots of different areas [of the community] involved. This is an outreach of the Topeka Library and the Sabatini Gallery – community building is the biggest intent of this project.”

The project participants started by collecting winter clothing for those in need beginning in early September. Even though the project is almost complete, there are still many chances to donate clothing. Collection boxes are being painted by teens in the community and one is currently available in Yeldarb Gallery. The clothing donated was used to “paint” and re-create a large-scale mural of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. After the display is taken down the clothing will be donated to the Topeka Rescue Mission for those who need winter clothing. The clothing will not be harmed during this process.

Roe likes to bring the community together with art, and this was the perfect way for her to do so. Her classes at Washburn, as well as other classes required the students to help roll clothing up, wrap it with string and then place the clothing in the correct place on the mural.

“I thought it was quite interesting because it’s using a different medium to display art,” said Mike Vasquez, computer science major and a student of Roe’s introduction to art class. “Sitting there alone you actually get to think about how things are going to look how everything is going to sit. Basically how each piece is going to coming together to make a whole different picture than what you are looking at, I thought it was kind of interesting.”

For more information, the project has its own Facebook page called “Seams Like Van Gogh,” the URL is

For those who didn’t participate this year, but would still like to, Roe encourages those interested to donate clothing. She hopes this will become a yearly project.

The Yeldarb Gallery is located at 900 N. Kansas Ave.