Niagara Gazette

February 17, 2013

WEARABLE ART: NACC artist's unique designs to be featured in fashion show Thursday

By Michele DeLuca,
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A couple of years ago, Mary Grace Ohrum made a dress out of coffee filters. It is one of her favorites. 

This year, she’s made one out of ripped and twisted plastic bags which she spray-painted in shades of the colors of the ocean. And the one she’s putting together in her studio at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center is made from shiny gift bags she bought at a local dollar store. The whole dress will cost her about twenty bucks.

There’s a couple of reasons for her unusual choice of materials. The first is that, despite drawing and making her own dresses since she was small, she hates to sew. Her newest creations are stapled, pasted and taped.

The second is that this young painter is not designing these dresses for herself. Despite the fact that they definitely are wearable, they are actually works of art causing a stir on catwalks at some of the most cutting edge fashion shows in the region. As soon as she finishes the gift bag dress, she’s starting on a bubble wrap and sheet music creation for an upcoming show of “Wearable Art,” being planned for Wine on Third. The event, being held on Thursday, will feature her work and that of six other designers, including one making a name for herself in Buffalo with her duct tape creations, Lisa Crapsi.

Ohrum, who calls herself Mary Grace O, began oil painting when she was 13 in a Niagara Falls program called Art Wheels held inside the former Convention Center. Tthe artist has gained a respectable reputation for her work as a painter and Her NACC studio is lined with her vivid, colorful canvases.  But, she gets a whole different feeling when she watches a model come down the runway wearing one of her dresses.

“It’s absolutely thrilling,” she said. “It’s like one of my paintings come to life.”

Other designers at the “Wearable Art” fashion show include Holly Rankie of the Hip Gypsy in North Tonawanda, Andrea Galyn, Artie Vanderpool, Lulu Robinson and Cat McCarthy.

Wine on Third, an upscale wine and tapas bar at 501 Third St., holds exhibitions monthly showcasing local artists, and Ohrum has had several exhibitions, but this is the first time for a fashion show at the restaurant according to David Giusiana, who co-owns the business with Shawn Weber. The event will include 20 models, six artists, and include hair stylists and makeup artists from the Marjon School of Beauty. Afterward, the dresses will be display as artwork for the remainder of the month, Giusiana said. 

“It’s something fun, something different,” Giusiana added. “It’s something to get people out of the house in the middle of winter.” 

As she prepared for the show in her  studio, she noted her concern over the recent cutback of city funding to the NACC, which houses artists, performers, and craftsmen in affordable studios made from classrooms at the former high school. She remembered fondly the art classes that she took as a young teen, and noted how important she feels the arts are to the full expression and personal growth of many young children.  

“I was so grateful for those art classes,” she said. “If it weren’t for those Art Wheel classes I wouldn’t be who I am today.” 



IF YOU GO • WHAT: Wearable Art Fashion Show • WHERE: Wine on Third, 501 Third St. • WHAT: Featuring dress designs of local artists made from unexpected materials • WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday • MORE INFO: Contact Wine on Third at 285-9463 INSIDE THE NACC This is part one of a series on artists at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center. The former high school, now home to a wide variety of painters, writers, dancers and performers, recently lost its funding from the city. This series will introduce some of the artists many artists inside the NACC.


Contact Features Editor Michele DeLuca at 282-2311, ext. 2263.