Artists Across Comm Ave

Artists Across Comm Ave: Katie Garrett

Artists Across Comm Ave is a series that spotlights student artists at Boston College (across Commonwealth Avenue). The social media installments of this series can be found on the McMullen Museum’s Instagram and Facebook pages.

By Michaela Brant, class of ’23

Boston College senior Katie Garrett does more than study economics; she is also an avid sewer since childhood. She learned from her grandmother in California, who gave her a sewing machine, and believes that everyone should know the skill.

Katie’s love of sewing began with tailoring and mending clothes (although her very first creations were pencil pouches as valentines for her class—which she said were not long enough to fit pencils). If she got a hand-me-down or thrifted a piece of clothing that fit less than perfect, it did not mean it was trash. It just meant she had to make it her own. 

“That was my first love with sewing, was taking stuff in or making something a little shorter,” she said. “I didn’t really start to get into making clothes from scratch until probably the past two years. It felt like something I was never going to be able to do, but I think as you get into a hobby like that, it kind of takes over, and you’re like, ‘Totally, I could try this out.’” 

Traveling back and forth from California to Boston College every couple of months meant that Katie had to leave her sewing machine at home. At first, she found that sewing machines on campus were only available to students who had a connection to the Theatre Department’s costume operations. She needed another option if she wanted to keep sewing. 

Meanwhile, the Boston College Design and Innovation department sought to bring more design thinking to campus. So in the summer of 2021, the department installed a makerspace where students could use equipment (including sewing machines) to do their own projects in the basement of Higgins Hall, the home of several BC science departments and classes. Spending time down there, Katie realized she wanted to bring her passion for sewing to the rest of BC. Once the makerspace, renamed The Hatchery, moved to BC’s newest academic building at 245 Beacon Street, Katie saw her chance. The idea for Patches, a sewing and upcycling club, was born.

Starting a club on campus is not as simple as grabbing your friends and booking a room—it requires a process that includes meeting with the Board of Student Organizations (BSO), proving there is a need for the organization, and documenting interest. Because STITCH, a club of crafters primarily focused on knitting and crocheting, was deemed too similar to her idea for a sewing club, the BSO rejected her first application proposal sophomore year. Rather than let that derail her, she decided to reapply the following year and get creative in proving that students wanted and needed Patches on campus.

At the annual Boston College Arts Festival in April, not-yet-official Patches set up a booth to sell clothing and collect interested students’ emails. By the end of the day, they had sold almost all of their clothing and had a lengthy list of interested students’ emails. 

In the fall, once Patches was an official club, Katie tabled at the student involvement fair, gaining even more interested participants. The first general interest meeting, she said, drew about 60 people, even though it was at 9:00 pm on a rainy Monday night. 

Patches uses the sewing machines in The Hatchery for sewing meetings, meaning members need to take the safety orientation, then complete a sewing machine training. Katie is among the group of student workers at The Hatchery who leads training and helps people out during open hours. 

The hardest part of teaching people to sew, she said, is that they underestimate their skill level. She compared learning to sew to driving a car or following a recipe—once you get the hang of it, it feels natural.

Making clothes from scratch and upcycling, while it may seem small, is a way for Katie to resist the fast fashion industry and overconsumption. Textile waste is a vast pollutant worldwide. The EPA estimated in 2018 that the United States created 17 million tons of textile waste.

“My ability to sew is something I’m really grateful for,” she said, “because it allows me to be sustainable in a way that a lot of people don’t have the ability to be.”

Upcycling clothing is one way to divert textile waste from landfills or already overrun thrift stores. “It allows me to be more thoughtful about the ways that I consume,” said Katie, “which I just try to take advantage of.”

As an economics major, Katie hopes to work to regulate banks and financial technology companies in the future. Although she does not see sewing playing a role in her career, she knows she will be sewing for the rest of her life. 

Although the arts scene at Boston College can sometimes appear limited to traditionally popular forms, like music, theatre, dance, and visual arts, Katie and Patches are helping create artistic spaces for anyone interested. 

“People who do art, or who want to do art, or like art, give you that respect and encouragement, like, ‘No, that’s cool, you should keep doing it,’” she said. “And I feel like meeting people like that here, even though I wasn’t still sewing [as often], encouraged me to…sew now more than I ever have in my life.”

Into the Collection

Into the Collection Spotlight

Joseph Stapleton (1921-1994) Thinking of Duke Ellington, 1979 India ink on paper, 17 x 14 in.

By Liam Conner, class of ’25

Joseph Stapleton was one of the many artists who populated New York City following the wars of the early 20th century. As a member of Abstract Expressionism’s “second generation,” Stapleton and others were heavily influenced by international culture, social movements, and artistic creativity. As shown in Stapleton’s Thinking of Duke Ellington, the seemingly spontaneous and erratic brush strokes combined with what seems to be text throughout the border work to create a portrait of Duke Ellington like none other. Painted approximately five years after The Duke’s death, the work expresses his longstanding legacy through its aberration from form. Ellington’s music throughout his career was revolutionary, and this image articulates that with its quick and almost swing-like strokes that hop around the canvas. Heavily influenced by Japanese calligraphy, Stapleton unconventionally incorporates themes from throughout the world in the same way that Duke Ellington wrote music with Latin and European cultures in mind. Stapleton’s interpretation of the great composer in Thinking of Duke Ellington provides a look not only at his own era but also at the impact of Duke Ellington and his legacy on the greater artistic community.


Duke Ellington: American Musician. See Accessed 9/23/2022.

New in Artstor—Nearly 300 Self-portraits by Joseph Stapleton: A Unique Offering from a Second Generation Abstract Expressionist. See Accessed 9/23/2022.


Letter from the Co-Editor: Signing Off

Dear McMullen Community,

I am beyond grateful to have served as a Student Ambassador, member of the  Education and EDIA+ (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility) committees, and co-chair of the Publications Committee over the past two years. I started working during the pandemic and have had the opportunity to witness the McMullen grow and adapt to the challenges of our society, including the struggle for racial justice. Additionally, I have been able to experience several exhibits, such as Indian Ocean Current: Six Artistic Narratives and Taking Shape: Abstractions from the Arab World, 1950s – 1980s. The exhibits have introduced me to different forms of art from around the world and have made me think more critically. 

The McMullen is a place that has enriched me intellectually and personally. I have met some of the most passionate, creative, and kind people, and I am blessed to have many of them as not only colleagues but friends. In addition, I have had the opportunity to work with other McMullen Ambassadors, host workshops, and implement my own ideas through collaborations with student organizations that I belonged to, such as FACES, the anti-racism organization, and BC Bigs. From the good-humored security guards to our amazing supervisor Rachel, the McMullen has fostered a welcoming and intellectually-stimulating environment that provided me with skills that I will use in future academic and professional pursuits. 

Being a co-chair and member of the Publications Committee, the Terrace provided fellow Student Ambassadors and me with an outlet to critically analyze art, its nuances, and its role in our society. Through articles such as “Religious Art: Buddha is not Home Decor” and “Art as Resistance: Murals at the U.S. – Mexico Border,” I have recognized the role of art beyond something aesthetically pleasing and as a powerful tool for both social change and oppression. The publications team has engaged further in the idea of art as a tool of oppression through our series called “Problematic Visual Culture,” which discusses pieces of visual culture that perpetuate stereotypes and other forms of discrimination. We also ask questions about the ethics of how museums operate in the article “Museums and Ethics: A Series of Question.” I am grateful to have been a part of a platform that has encouraged critical thinking, new perspectives, and the inclusion of marginalized groups. Through the Terrace, the McMullen has been able to connect with issues facing communities beyond BC and uncover how important art is in the world.    

I will definitely be visiting the Terrace website in the future, but as a reader rather than a writer, and I am beyond excited to see the fantastic work of all the Student Ambassadors to come. Working here has been an amazing experience, and while it is sad to say goodbye, I am so excited to pass the Terrace over to the committee’s returning co-chair: Michaela Brant (‘23), and new co-chair Joy Cheng (‘23). 


Ivana Wijedasa ‘22