Local groups find new use for old ballet shoes

akenney@newsobserver.comJuly 22, 2013 

— CARY What does one do with almost 70 pairs of unusable ballet shoes?

That’s the question the staff of the Cary Ballet Company had to answer as they looked at a pile of unused but unsellable pointe shoes that had sat in an inventory room for a decade.

“They didn’t fit dancers, and they just kind of sat on the shelf,” said Suzanne Murley, administrative director for the Cary Ballet Company. “We thought, we don’t want these to go to waste.”

So they called in the artists, and some six months later, the unsold inventory has been transformed into a giant piece of collaborative art that will benefit three area nonprofits.

The piece will be on display Saturday at the Cary Ballet Company, with proceeds from merchandise sales going to the Cary Ballet Company, the Cary Creative Reuse Center and the Fine Arts League of Cary.

To pull it off, the Cary Creative Reuse Center and the Fine Arts League of Cary sent out dozens of shoes to members of the art group. The instructions were simple: “Make ’em colorful and decorate all the sides,” said Betsy Dassau, founder of the artistic recycling center.

For the nearly 200 members of the Fine Arts League, it was a fitting challenge.

“Every time I get something in my home I re-upholster it. Art is my thing,” said Jaimee Bensal, one of the contributing artists for The Ballet Shoe Project. The result was a mix of patterns, prints and even sculpture, all made from the pointe shoes.

“They went above and beyond,” Dassau said, looking over the spread of shoes as they awaited their first hanging.

The 29 artists, from age 8 to long past retirement, had made everything from aquatic scenes to a ruby-red slippers out of the pointe shoes, replacing ballerina pink with leopard spots, glitter and dye.

In all, the artists redecorated 164 shoes, and they hung from floor to ceiling when the group set up a test run in the large multi-purpose room at the Cary Senior Center.

To bring all the pieces together, the project’s coordinators strung them heel to toe with thin stainless steel wire descending from wooden boards, making use of the Reedy Creek Veterans of Foreign Wars post for preparations.

Then they hung them for photography at the senior center, and finally moved them to the ballet studio, where they will make their public debut at a free reception at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

The final product will hang permanently in the entrance to the Cary Ballet Conservatory at 3791 NW Cary Parkway.

The three groups – the reuse center, the arts league and the ballet company – will sell $15 prints of Brooke Meyer’s photograph of the art, splitting the proceeds.


Kenney: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @KenneyOnCary

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