HOW RAW BEGAN

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS

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.

    Community Involvement

Abby Kelly Foster Celebration

ACE (African Community Education)

Ascentria

Bamboo Bicycles Beijing

Camosse Masonry Supplies

C.A.S. Handmade, Inc.

Friendly House

Greendale People’s Church

Healing Fibers

Holy Cross College Parents Weekend

International  Women’s Day YWCA

JUHAN (Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network)

Massachusetts Cultural Council

RIAC (Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Program)

Seven Hills

Shrewsbury International Fair and Diversity Celebration

Silk Road Jam Session

Shaker Village, Sabbath Day Lake

Southeast Asian Coalition

Spencer Fair

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Wachusett Watershed Regional Recycle Center

Worcester Art Museum

Worcester Arts Council

Worcester Earn A Bike

Worcester Public Library

World Refugee Day

Worcester Women’s Oral History Project

Zion Lutheran Church

Funding Sources

Commerce Bank, Division of Berkshire

Dunn Family Foundation

First Baptist Church

Mellon Grant

The Bishop's Fund, St. Peter's

Worcester Arts Council

George I. Alden Trust

College and School Collaborations

Assumption College

Becker College

Boston University,

Clark University

Dartmouth

Goucher College 

Holy Cross

Mount Wachusett Community College

New Citizen Center Young Adult

Notre Dame Academy

South High Community School

Worcester Center for Crafts

Worcester State University

WPI

Tu Meh, Burmese back strap weaver