The art of needlework is thousands of years old, employing materials and methods handed down through countless generations. "Needle Art: A Postmodern Sewing Circle," opening Friday, Feb, 17, in the gallery of the De Pre Art Center at Hope College, pays tribute to the legacy by presenting 50 objects by artists who use needlework forms or traditional needlework materials, tools, and techniques to create powerful and expressive works of art.

There will be an opening reception on Friday, Feb. 17, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The public is invited to both the exhibition and the reception. Admission is free.

The needle is an ancient and universal tool, and an evolutionary thread connects the artists in this exhibition with their historical past. Some use the sewing machine, a tool that merges artistic creation with commercial production and precision. Other artists are laptop sewers, accomplishing their work stitch by stitch. The artists in this postmodern sewing circle use familiar techniques - embroidery, quilting, beadwork and upholstery - in a very contemporary way. But though the methods may be traditional, the materials range from gingham and organza to beach towels, Styrofoam, cornhusks and even baseballs.

The works on display vary from the personal and nostalgic to the political, feminist and simply funny. "Needle Art: A Postmodern Sewing Circle" blends the old with the new, craft with fine art, to help build appreciation of needle art as a medium with enormous artistic potential.

"Needle Art: A Postmodern Sewing Circle" is curated by Carrie Lederer, curator of exhibitions at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek, Calif. The exhibition is organized by the Bedford Gallery and toured by ExhibitsUSA.

The purpose of ExhibitsUSA is to create access to an array of arts and humanities exhibitions, nurture the development and understanding of diverse art forms and cultures, and encourage the expanding depth and breadth of cultural life in local communities. ExhibitsUSA is a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance, a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1972. ExhibitsUSA is generously supported by Altria Group, Inc.; The Brown Foundation, Inc.; James H. Clement Jr.; ConocoPhillips; the Cooper Foundation; Maureen and Robert Decherd; Douglas County Bank/Ross and Marianna Beach; DST Systems, Inc.; The Don and Sybil Harrington Foundation; Houston Endowment, Inc.; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; Edward Jones; the Helen Jones Foundation; the William T. Kemper Foundation, Commerce Bank, trustee; the Richard P. Kimmel and Laurine Kimmel Charitable Foundation; the Meadows Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Courtney S. Turner Charitable Trust; The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation; the Woods Charitable Fund; and the state arts agencies of Arkansas, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The gallery, which is handicapped accessible, is open Sundays and Mondays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The exhibition will continue through Sunday, March 12.

The De Pree Art Center is located on Columbia Avenue at 12th Street. Additional information may be obtained by calling (616) 395-7500.