St’artUp 317 is a competitive program that aims to match young brands, established businesses wanting to test a new market, startups and artists, with vacant and under-utilized first floor commercial space in downtown neighborhoods to create pop-up stores. Inspired by similar initiatives across the country St’artUp 317 is being coordinated by Downtown Indy, Inc in partnership with PATTERN in order to incubate viable retail businesses and long-term tenants, while supporting the creative class and improving the cultural profile of our city. The long-term goal of the program is to eliminate empty storefronts, increase local and visitor consumer spending and ensure that the Downtown neighborhoods continue thriving.
This series of stories highlights artists, entrepreneurs and businesses that were selected to participate in the pilot of St’ArtUp 317.
For Beth Bennett, movies based on the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s offer a glance of an irresistible kind of glamour. Now, the fashion designer brings influences from these eras and her own creative flair to the corner of Meridian and Georgia Street with a window display put together for her partnership with St’Art Up 317.
Although this was her first opportunity to design a window display, Bennett learned a lot through the process, including how to display her looks in new ways.
“It has fulfilled a small part of the desire I have to simply present fashion to the community to view outside of the expected retail experience,” said Bennett. “I now can imagine more dynamic ways of showing fashion as an art form in a window box, after doing just this one.”
In creating the display, Bennett incorporated her signature lace, flowers, tulle, fabrics and more to piece together a window that demonstrates her unique style.
Bennett channels her background in theatrical design to bring her ideas to life. Having experience in sewing, draping and pattern-making as well as hat-making and designing allows her complete freedom to express herself through her art.
In creating her window display, Bennett encountered numerous challenges. She felt design pressure and a lack of privacy when setting up her display. However, the most unnerving feeling came after the display was complete.
“Interestingly enough, after the flurry of window installation activity, I was hit with an unexpected feeling of being very vulnerable,” said Bennett. “Like, ‘Oh no… that is my stuff on view in that window and people are looking at it and thinking thoughts and forming opinions.’”
In the future, Bennett plans on staying in Indiana but wants to shift her artistic focus. She wants to concentrate less on sewing and more on painting, particularly silk painting. Bennett also wants to teach sewing, pattern-making and draping to adults.
No matter what form of art she focuses on, Bennett will continue to incorporate her love of vintage and couture design into everything she creates.
“I guess from a young age I’ve always been looking backward in history and culture for inspiration, especially in clothing,” said Bennett. “I know it is important to keep current on what’s happening now and to know where things in design and culture are headed, but looking into the past is something I’ve never lost.”
Additionally, Bennett wants to be an advocate for independent fashion, apparel and textile designers. She believes museums, fashion shows and retail spaces aren’t the only ways for an artist to showcase their work, as these are unattainable for most artists.
“I would like to see more public interaction with fashion in that way as a presentation,” said Bennett. “Perhaps it is getting those designers work onto more bodies for more inspired street fashion. Maybe it is some sort of installation in public areas, like these St’Art Up 317 windows. This general idea is more of a long-range goal, more of a kernel of an idea at the present.”