By MICHELLE SCHMIDTLEWISTON – Steampunk is in. What exactly it is, though, can be hard to define – which may contribute to its widespread appeal.
Steampunk is more than art, in its formal sense. Kelsey Grafton, program coordinator for Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History, describes it as an artistic experience that includes visual art, music, fashion and more.
“It can be anything,” Grafton explains. “It’s very eclectic and all over the place.”
The style has an emphasis on mechanism, interchangeable parts, re-purposed materials and being creative with the things you already have, she says. It carries a futuristic sentiment – fanciful contraptions and imaginary weapons – but with its feet firmly planted in the Victorian past.
Debi Fitzgerald, the center’s director, associates the concept with 19th-century author Jules Verne (who wrote “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” among other books), along with the recent “Sherlock Holmes” movies.
“There’s always been an understanding of steampunk,” says Fitzgerald, “but there’s been a movement growing in various communities based on the idea.”
She cites a recent steampunk convention in Seattle and the rise of a steampunk society in Spokane.
The center is putting on a workshop Saturday, “Gear Up for Steampunk,” which is aimed at demystifying the genre. The open house-style workshop is led by artist Paula Lahti and is open to all ages. Participants will have the opportunity to create their own steampunk-style object in a family-friendly atmosphere. The cost covers materials, and people are invited to bring their own items – for example, a hat or belt – to embellish.
A second purpose of the workshop is to give people a leg up on their preparations for the upcoming Steampunk Progressive Dinner and Ball on Oct. 25. The event begins with drinks and appetizers at the Blue Lantern, a catered dinner and entertainment at the Orchid Room and a ball at the LCSC Center for Arts & History featuring music, a silent auction, fashion show and dessert. The ball is also the opening of a steampunk art exhibit. The event is a fundraiser for the development of children’s art programs at the center and is open to all ages.
Costumes are encouraged for the event, though not necessary. In addition to helping people develop a costume through the workshop, there will be a rummage sale at the center on Saturday, featuring goods from local thrift stores.
What is Steampunk?
“Steampunk is an art aesthetic, a fashion, a genre of fictional literature, a musical style and a burgeoning sub-culture which celebrates ‘yesterday’s ideas about tomorrow.’ By mixing imaginary steam-powered contraptions, clockworks and fantasy gadgets – all through the lens of the romantic Victorian era – you will arrive at Steampunk.”
– Steampunk statement by artist Carrie Vielle, provided by Fitzgerald
A Few Fashion Elements of Steampunk
Steampunk is what you make it, says Grafton, and relies on using what you already have. She suggests searching for steampunk fashion online to get ideas, but offers these common steampunk fashion elements: Clock pieces; top hats; gears; rusted metal; worn leather; pipes; bright colors; Victorian-era jewelry and brooches; aviator or motoring goggles; silk, especially in bright colors; vests; and belts.
If you go:
What: Second Saturday: “Gear Up for Steampunk” workshop and rummage sale
When: Noon to 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History, 415 Main St. in Lewiston
What: Steampunk Progressive Dinner and Ball
When: 5 p.m. Oct. 25
Where: The Blue Lantern, Orchid Room and LCSC Center for Arts & History
Cost: $25/appetizers, drinks and dinner, $25/ball only or $40/for everything. LCSC students receive a discount. Tickets can be purchased at the LCSC Center for Arts & History or call (208) 792-2243.