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Rugs that make a difference: Afghan women take a stand while wowing with design power

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 ARZU Studio Hope, rug exhibit, Bank of America, February 2013
From left, Frank Gehry's design, two of Margaret McCurry's geometric rugs and a piece designed by Michael Graves. ARZU STUDIO HOPE/Facebook
ARZU Studio Hope, rug exhibit, Bank of America, February 2013
The rugs were hand-woven by Afghan women who used 100 percent hand-dyed sheep's wool. ARZU STUDIO HOPE/Facebook
ARZU Studio Hope, rug exhibit, Bank of America, February 2013
The exhibition will remain on view in Houston through Feb. 15. ARZU STUDIO HOPE/Facebook
 ARZU Studio Hope, rug exhibit, Bank of America, February 2013
ARZU Studio Hope, rug exhibit, Bank of America, February 2013
ARZU Studio Hope, rug exhibit, Bank of America, February 2013

High design, quality craftsmanship and philanthropy collide in a recent collaboration for ARZU Studio Hope, a nonprofit aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty and bringing empowerment to Afghan women weavers. 

It all began when Chicago architects Stanley Tigerman and Margaret McCurry enlisted the help of other internationally-renowned designers to create custom pieces for the organization's Masters Collection

A marriage of modern architecture and age-old craft techniques, Afghan weavers worked Tigerman's tribal prints, McCurry's geometric symbols, Frank Gehry's exaggerated puzzle pieces, Robert A.M. Stern's scrolls, Zaha Hadid's spidery lines and Michael Graves' fluid abstractions into hand-woven rugs made from 100 percent hand-dyed sheep's wool.

U.S. Trust — a company that similarly believes in art, philanthropy and the empowerment of women — sponsored the Houston run of the exhibition, which is on public display in the lobby of the Bank of America Center through Feb. 15.

A reception for the exhibition drew local notables and even Karen Hughes, former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, to speak about the initiative.

"Her involvement in Afghan issues, especially those relating to women, drew her to this organization," explained Samantha Kennedy, a private client advisor for U.S. Trust. 

A limited number of rugs from ARZU's Masters Collection are available for order. Proceeds will benefit Afghan women with fair wages and social benefits.

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