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Celebrating Independent Artists

* Happy Independence Day 2023 *

Celebrating independent artists contributing to

democracy, beauty, and the health of our environment.

© Queens Museum; 'Made in Flint' Flint Fit Capsule Collection using recycled Flint water bottle-based fabric, 2018


This Independence Day we celebrate independent artists contributing to democracy, beauty, and the health of our environment.

As part of the program for THE POISONER, an stage play inspired by the Flint Water Crisis premiering April 2024 in New York City, we will be sharing the work of a number of inspiring designers, photographers and performance artists dedicated to elevating awareness about the Flint Water Crisis, including Flint Fit.

The Flint Fit 'Made in Flint' women's collection premiered at New York City's Queens Museum - a breath of glamour aimed at infusing hope into the impoverished city whose tap water became poisoned with lead in 2014 after cost-cutting by local authorities. The former car manufacturing hub, whose decline was chronicled in Michael Moore's documentary “Roger & Me”, had since been drowning in plastic bottles of drinking water.

Renowned New York fashion designer and Michigan native Tracy Reese, best known for outfitting former first lady Michelle Obama, grew up in Detroit. Reese was offended by the mismanagement behind Flint's water crisis and wanted to do something of service, designing the pilot capsule collection for Flint Fit inspired by the power and necessity of water, the manufacturing history of Flint, and the resiliency of the Flint community.

Flint Fit is a prototype for action, where Flint's empty water bottles are transformed into thread, thread becomes fabric, fabric becomes fashion, and fashion gets fabricated right back in Flint. The project, conceived by artist Mel Chin, envisions a creative use of excess material, opportunity, and artistic innovation between Flint, MI, Greensboro, NC, and New York City.

Demonstrating the inter-connectedness of resources, Chin's concept and Reese's designs were brought to life with the help of many collaborators:

  • Flint residents, activists, and community organizations collected 90,000 empty plastic water bottles

  • Bottles were transported to Greensboro where they were transformed into REPREVE yarn by Unifi, Inc.

  • The recycled REPREVE yarn was woven and knitted into fabric by Mount Vernon Mills and Texollini

  • The recycled plastic fiber was sewn into garments by the commercial sewing program at St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center in Flint

Reese & Chin's prototype provided a glimmer of what might be a future for Flint, a triangulation as complex as it is unlikely, and one that could work, not only there, but in other quarters just as surely in need of hope. In times as uncertain as our own, when the public discourse tends to divide us into enemy camps, Flint Fit is designed to bring together diverse groups of people living in vastly different circumstances – building unexpected relationships and potential out of crisis.

We will hope you will join us next April 2024 in New York City for the opening of THE POISONER where we will share more of these artists' groundbreaking work – one of many conversations we hope to elevate in gratitude to all who continue to work for justice in Flint. Meanwhile… below are some images and stories from Flint Fit – enjoy!


© Queens Museum; 'Made in Flint' Flint Fit Capsule Collection using recycled Flint water bottle-based fabric, 2018

© Queens Museum; 'Made in Flint' Flint Fit Capsule Collection using recycled Flint water bottle-based fabric, 2018


Tracy Reese is an American designer originally from Detroit, Michigan. She recalls making clothing from scratch while growing up, alongside her mother, while they worked sitting side by side at their own sewing machines. With an innate desire to create beautiful things, the Detroit native attended Cass Technical High School in Detroit, and then Parsons School of Design. Reese's first apprenticeship was under designer Martine Sitbon, working for the small contemporary firm, Arlequin. Thirteen years later, Reese launched her own eponymous collection, to rave reviews. Combining bold hues and prints with modern silhouettes and shapes, Reese designs have been featured in the top fashion publications Vogue, Elle, Glamour, InStyle, O, the Oprah Magazine, Essence and WWD. Her distinct point of view has also made her a celebrity favorite. Notable fans of the brand include First Lady Michelle Obama, Sarah Jessica Parker and Taylor Swift.


© Queens Museum; 'Made in Flint' Flint Fit Capsule Collection using recycled Flint water bottle-based fabric, 2018


© Queens Museum; 'Made in Flint' Flint Fit Capsule Collection using recycled Flint water bottle-based fabric, 2018


St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center, where Flint Fit was sewn, is a faith-based environment providing life skills, education and workplace training, empowering women and men to become self-sufficient. Part of their mission is to offer programs for at-risk women to become more self-reliant, with a three year program providing education, support, and courage helping these women find a job - enabling them to live independently and have a bright future. The Sewing Business at St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center is more than just a business. All of their employees are graduates of their Three Year Program of Life Change or Employment Preparation programs. They offer job coaching and other support services in order to remove any barriers to success in the workplace. The businesses at St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center offer the opportunity to learn a valuable trade skill while establishing soft skills that lay a good foundation for continuous employment. Their mission is to aid individuals in becoming self-sufficient and the sewing business is one way they are “stitching lives together.”



© Queens Museum; 'Made in Flint' Flint Fit Capsule Collection using recycled Flint water bottle-based fabric, 2018


Unifi is an American-based company with global operations, and a leading producer of polyester and nylon yarns, including their branded recycled fiber, REPREVE, which is made from recycled plastic bottles. Unifi integrates sustainability into everything they do, including manufacturing, marketing and merchandising. REPREVE is the global leader in branded recycled fiber and is used by some of the most influential companies across the globe including Patagonia, Ford, Levi's Volcom and BeyondYoga. Production of REPREVE conserves resources, offsetting the need to use newly refined crude oil. And compared to making virgin synthetic fibers, REPREVE production uses less energy and water, and produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions.


© Queens Museum; 'Made in Flint' Flint Fit Capsule Collection using recycled Flint water bottle-based fabric, 2018


Founded in 1972, Queens Museum is dedicated to presenting the highest quality visual arts and educational programming for people in the New York metropolitan area, and particularly for the residents of Queens—a uniquely diverse, ethnic, cultural, and international community. They fulfill this mission by designing and providing art exhibitions, public programs, and educational experiences that promote the appreciation and enjoyment of art, support the creative efforts of artists, and enhance quality of life through interpreting, collecting, and exhibiting art, architecture, and design. The artistic and educational programs and exhibitions they provide directly relate to the contemporary urban life of local communities, while maintaining the highest standards of professional, intellectual, and ethical responsibility.


© Queens Museum; 'Made in Flint' Flint Fit Capsule Collection using recycled Flint water bottle-based fabric, 2018

Tracy Reese is an American designer originally from Detroit, Michigan. She recalls making clothing from scratch while growing up, alongside her mother, while they worked sitting side by side at their own sewing machines. With an innate desire to create beautiful things, the Detroit native attended Cass Technical High School in Detroit, and then Parsons School of Design. Reese's first apprenticeship was under designer Martine Sitbon, working for the small contemporary firm, Arlequin. Thirteen years later, Reese launched her own eponymous collection, to rave reviews. Combining bold hues and prints with modern silhouettes and shapes, Reese designs have been featured in the top fashion publications Vogue, Elle, Glamour, InStyle, O, the Oprah Magazine, Essence and WWD. Her distinct point of view has also made her a celebrity favorite. Notable fans of the brand include First Lady Michelle Obama, Sarah Jessica Parker and Taylor Swift.


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