Fashion Has Heart for ArtPrize

Rapid Growth got the opportunity this week to tour several ArtPrize venues in and around downtown Grand Rapids. One venue that really stood out was the Fashion Has Heart gallery at 144 E. Fulton Street. This venue, up for a juried Venue Award from ArtPrize, is built around the Corporal Hoffman Series. Rapid Growth wrote about it originally back in June of this year.

Despite severe disabilities as a result of a sniper's bullet in Iraq, including the loss of speech, Corporal Josh Hoffman, now 29, is determined to use his heart, mind and creative passion to inspire other wounded warriors to continue to live and dream back in the U.S. Through the nonprofit organization Fashion Has Heart, wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are paired with shoe and T-shirt designers to create one-of-a-kind apparel.

According to their website and curator Spencer Covey: "The result of their work is silkscreened onto a Threadless T-shirt to become a wearable work of art that carries a significant story. This [Fashion Has Heart] project also includes each of the five heroes working with designers from Bates Footwear to custom-design their own military-inspired boot that aid to further tell their story through the medium of fashion."

The exhibit at the small retail storefront on E. Fulton (near One Stop Coney), contains works from Hoffman and four other soldiers, representing all five branches of the military (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard).

Michael Bell - Coast Guard
Seth Herman - Designer
Michael's largest inspirations have been the Navy and cycling. His shirt design represents those two passions along with the can-do attitude of "Adapt & Overcome"

Israel Del Toro - AirForce
Chuck Anderson - Designer, No Pattern
Israel's T-shirt design is a rendition of a tattoo depicting the rising from flames to be a new person in the spirt of a Phoenix.

Danielle Green-Byrd - Army
Phil Jones - Designer
Danielle was hit by a rocket propelled grenade which left her without her dominant left arm. Her design shows the transition from using her left and right arms along with the loss of her husband as shown by the half-open door as the transition occurrs.

Josh Hoffman - Marines
Tyler Way - T.Way - Designer
Josh Hoffman is the namesake of the exhibit.  While in Fallujah Josh was hit by a sniper leaving him fully paralyzed. Josh communicates through a complex system of letters and number which we used to design his fashion line.

Chris Wiers - Marines
Priscilla Wilson - Designer
Chris was left disabled by a roadside IED.  Chris's design is a memorial to those who have shed blood on the dangerous roads of Iraq. His shirt has the Marine motto: "Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever."

One of the stated goals of Fashion Has Heart is to recruit other veterans to join in the cause, but it's also to raise money for veteran advocacy. The uniquely designed T-shirts are available for sale during ArtPrize, and the $25 retail price goes toward their fundraising efforts.

Several of the designs, and the cause, certainly evoke powerful emotions. The shirt design by Danielle Green-Byrd, with a series of left-hand swinging doors signifying the loss of her left arm, followed by a series of right-hand swinging doors signifying the death of her husband upon her return from war, are particularly powerful.

Fashion Has Heart's venue at 144 E. Fulton is one of 161 venues this year for ArtPrize. Venue hours run from Monday - Thursdays 5 p.m. - 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays Noon - 10 p.m., and Sundays Noon - 6 p.m.

Jeff Hill is the Publisher of Rapid Growth Media

Photos by Jeff Hill

Take a look at these videos to see and hear from some of the veterans in person:

[FHH] ArtPrize 2012 - Summer from Fashion Has Heart on Vimeo.

[FHH] Presents: A Special Announcement from Fashion Has Heart on Vimeo.