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Functional art that gives back: Burton Center's woven sleeping mats and more

Functional art takes on a whole new meaning with the latest art show by Burton Center for Disabilities and Special Needs.

In the main gallery of the Arts Center of Greenwood, displayed plastic grocery bags of different colors have been cut into strips and woven into sleeping mats. 

Mats are for homeless, who may find themselves sleeping outdoors, or in less than adequate conditions.

Mats can be hosed off if they get dirty and they provide a little insulation when sleeping on the ground or hard surfaces.

Anthony Price, Greenwood Pathway House executive director, said mats should be coming to the nonprofit homeless shelter later in October, just in time for Pathway's cold weather shelter to open.

"Cold weather shelter doesn't open until the end of October or Nov. 1," Price said. "We told Burton Center we would be more than happy to give mats out to people who come in here for cold weather shelter."

Price said Burton Center does at least one service project a year to benefit Pathway House, be it a canned food drive or this latest effort with the sleeping mats.

"There's obviously more people homeless right now, with what I'm hearing with evictions and everything, it's starting to hit right now," Price said. "We are anticipating a much busier year. We got a lot of phone calls Sept. 16, with people figuring out the rain was coming from Hurricane Sally. We checked in several people that day. Based on the economic impact from this novel coronavirus, we are expecting an increase in the number of people we serve."

When temperatures dip down to the 50s and below, Price said cold weather shelter numbers increase.

The exhibit is on view at the Arts Center of Greenwood through Oct. 10. Some pieces are for sale.

"This is just one component of our art show this year," said Louise Robinson, Burton Center activities coordinator. "Every year in January, we start thinking of projects." 

Robinson said the Pilot Club of Greenwood, a civic organization, helped come up with the sleeping mat idea. Club members worked with interested individuals in Burton Center's day work programs.

The art show also includes decorated plates and painted canvases. Abstract paintings are in the gallery's special exhibits space.

"There's a lot of color and energy to those pieces," said Jennifer A. Smith, Arts Center of Greenwood gallery and marketing director.

Normally, the Burton Center art show is staged at the Arts Center for a couple weeks each March, for Disabilities Awareness Month.

"We had to rework our whole exhibit schedule this year after COVID-19," Smith said. "Burton Center had come together prior to COVID-19 to work on this."

Burton Center individuals and staff have gotten involved with this year's show, Robinson said.

"More than meets the eye is really the theme of this year's show," Robinson said. "What we all do is just a little bit extra. These sleeping mats are being donated to Greenwood Pathway House to help others. While the work Burton Center individuals do through our work programs is important, so is creativity like this. It exercises the brain."

Burton Center individuals who are part of work center programs in Lexington, Saluda, Ware Shoals and Greenwood have art in the show.

"We're doing this for the homeless," said Burton Center individual Amber Simpson.

Plastic bags are cut into strips and looped together to form long strands. Strands are then woven together. Visually, they resemble woven or crocheted pot holders.

"The mats are absolutely beautiful," Smith said. "They did such a great job picking variations of color. Even the more monochromatic ones are beautiful. Some even have color blocks in their designs. It looks like everyone had fun doing this."

Smith said the Arts Center has had a lot of out-of-town visitors lately.

"I actually had a guy email me who wants to buy three of the Burton Center pieces he saw when he came through," Smith said. "He wants to more about the artists. We did sell a lot of the Burton Center show pieces last year as well. This year's show has great art and it's giving back."

Contact St. Claire Donaghy at 864-943-2518.

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