HOW RAW BEGAN
Co-founders, Joan Kariko and Ellen Ferrante, share the belief that with every piece of art, the result is a reflection of the artist's life history, that the work is comprised of more than a single life but the expression of thousands of years of cultural history. Worcester is one of 27 cities throughout the US that supports the relocation assimilation of international refugees. It is the city for resettlement of hundreds of talented refugees, forced to leave their homes and flee with little or no possessions. Joan and Ellen care about the cultural diversity of Worcester, agree on the value of artistic expressions to preserve refugee dignity and therefore, established RAW in 2010 after meeting two recent refugee weavers from Bhutan. These weavers had lived for more than ten years in a refugee camp in Nepal before their move to Worcester. Read their stories on the Artisans page. Refugee Artisans of Worcester now has over twenty-one active artists, representing nine countries. In its brief history, since 2010, there have been more than forty participants in the project.
The project has grown to include not only weavers but basket makers, jewelry makers, fabric enhancers who use embroidery and bead embellishments, knitters, stone masons and seamstresses. RAW artisans originate from the African and Asian countries of Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia Kenya, Bhutan, Nepal, Burma, Iraq and Pakistan. Local professional artists and retailers have evaluated the refugees' work. Their art has been highly praised and has been sold successfully at several retail venues.
Startup funds were received from Commerce Bank of Worcester and the Dunn Family Charitable Foundation. This website was initially developed to archive the artisans work through the generous support of the College of the Holy Cross and the efforts of student intern, Ashley Piemonte, supervising Professor Dr. Susan Rogers, Cantor Gallery curator, Roger Haskins, Gallery Coordinator, Paula Rosenblum with technical support through the College's IT department staff.