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Noland explains that her store, Peggy Noland Kansas City, is a way to sustain a presence in her hometown and experiment with installation art, her other passion. Squeezed between Y.J.'s Snack Bar and the clothing boutique Spool, her shop is nothing if not an eyeball magnet.
In 2008, she covered her walls with Polyfill stuffing before the fire marshal ordered her to take it down. Earlier this year, she made the store over as a plush menagerie, caking the walls with stuffed animals. For an installation this summer, Noland and her friend Christine Stormberg covered the walls with thick green Styrofoam fingers that they sculpted by hand.
While constructing the installation, Noland continued a sweatshop sewing schedule for her pop-up shop and runway show. She got a little help, thanks to her affiliation with the Kansas City Art Institute, where she teaches. Despite never having taken art classes in school (she studied religion at Rockhurst University before dropping out), Noland has become a favorite instructor of the school's fiber department chairwoman, Pauline Verbeek-Cowart.
"She is perfect for us because she is an entrepreneur," Verbeek-Cowart says. What makes Noland special, Verbeek-Coward explains, is that she thinks as Peggy the artist and Peggy the businesswoman. "She is so inventive in trying to find markets and ways to connect with community and people. The fact that she's in New York doing this pop-up shop, but she's also there doing Fashion Week — she figures these things out. And that's remarkable, that she has a brain that can take that all in."
Maegan Stracy, a KCAI junior working with Noland for independent-study credit, agrees. "It is nice being able to see her work in the real world and see that people are actually buying it."
In her shop a week before leaving for New York, Noland meets with Stracy, 19, to discuss pockets that need to be sewn. Noland switches to instructor mode. "Go to shows — try to get some meetings," she lectures. "A lot will happen if you let it."
That's more or less Noland's credo. "There is nothing that sets me apart except that I'm willing to work really, really hard at what I want," she says. "There are a million of me, but there's only one of me."
That appetite for work, along with Noland's professional connections, makes her irresistible to other artists and students.
Stormberg, for example, drove in from Omaha to spend a 96-degree August afternoon perched on the top rung of a ladder in Noland's shop, affixing yellow synthetic hair to the ceiling. "I'm probably going to end up making 50 cents an hour," Stormberg says, "but I'm glad to do it."
Noland's trusted troupe of laborers allows her work on the store and her clothes as she prepares for New York. While Stormberg deals with the hair and Stracy handles the pockets, Noland finishes items for the pop-up shop, working 16-hour days. The hanging rack in her bedroom fills with more than 20 finished garments.
Noland is used to binging on work. For six years, she didn't date so she could focus. That changed this year when she met her boyfriend, Matt Huff (drummer for local band Lazy). Noland's career also has sometimes isolated her from her family.
Her father, Garry Noland, an interdisciplinary artist, says his daughter has always thrived on busy schedules and doing work she takes pride in. "What impresses me about her is that she's her own client." he says.