DC’s Textile Museum Finds New Home at GWU
May 26, 2015
On March 20, 2015, the nearly 100-year-old Textile Museum’s new doors opened to a sparkling evening of rubbing elbows with contemporary artists, curators, members, staff – and the local SDA community.
Unraveling Identity: Our Textiles, Our Stories is the inaugural exhibition at the new George Washington University location in Washington, DC.
On view now through August 9, 2015, it unveils the museum’s new identity – which is one that I’m sure you will want to come to know.
Unraveling Identity explores expressions of individual, cultural, political, spiritual and social identity by telling the stories of more than 100 works spanning 2,000 years and 5 continents. New information technology at the museum – in the form of touch-screen tablets – offers visitors access to details that greatly expand on the wall labels.
Another welcome addition is a digital copy of Unraveling Identity exhibition catalog, available on the museum’s website. (It’s the first of such catalogs the museum plans to offer.)
Print catalogs can, of course, also be purchased online.
Also for the first time, you can access an online document with exhibition object labels and extended text that provides more detailed information about each work.
The dramatic oval staircase provides a view overlooking the gallery below, where it’s easy to imagine the space filled with a huge contemporary fiber installation.
SDA member Eileen Doughty looks forward to “seeing the huge new space utilized for more shows of contemporary work by today’s fiber artists.”
Peggy Greenwood, Textile Museum docent (and SDA member, below), points out the complexities of a late Nasca-style Peruvian weaving (ca. 400-700) and its discontinuous warp and weft.
Asked for her impressions of the new space, Greenwood answered, “Even though I miss our elegant old mansion on S St, the new museum is a real opportunity to get the age-old stories that textiles tell out to a much wider audience, and, I hope, to build new devotion among young people. Maybe we are on our way. Over the last week about 200 visitors a day came across the threshold. At the old TM, weekday rates were more like 10 a day!”
The new interactive technology in the current exhibition is designed to give visitors an opportunity to share their ideas on unraveling their own identity. Museum Director John Wetenhall (at right, below) shares in the experience with visitors.
The museum’s new classroom space was utilized on the opening weekend with a bingata (Okinawan stencil/resist dyeing) workshop by master artist Sachiko Yafuso from Okinawa, Japan. SDA member Susan McCauley and Dianne Wolman try their hand at bingata with Sachiko Yafuso.
As with any textile exhibit opening, sometimes the garments worn by guests prove to be as interesting as the work on the walls.
Coriolana Simon and Douglas Wolters of TimePoints Photography sport a beautiful Uzbekistan silk ikat coat dress and a vest from the North West Coast Haida Nation (near Vancouver).
Gladje Maria Olsson (at left, below) from Sweden was decked out in her native costume. She wove the apron herself and the blouse was a family heirloom, hand-embroidered by her mother. A high school textile teacher from the small village of Orsa, Olsson received a grant in order to attend the opening. Nancy McCarthy and her daughter Kevin Lynn McCarthy (center) were both decked out in “artwear.” Nancy wore upcycled knitwear by SDA member Tamara Embrey, while Kevin wore a Betsy Giberson of Fire Opal silk shibori dress. Guest Pat Kuhlhoff of Santa Fe, NM (at right, below), was wearing a cotton and silk ikat jacket she purchased in the Fergana Valley of Eastern Uzbekistan.
So what’s in it for you?
The great location on the vibrant George Washington University campus, expanded exhibition space, wonderfully high-ceiling galleries, expanded storage and conservation space, exhibitions enhanced with touch-screen technology, a rich schedule of educational programs, for the public and George Washington University students, a dedicated classroom (with a sink!), the short walk from Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro Station and lots of nearby restaurants are all reasons why you should plan a trip to Washington, DC to explore the many merits of Textile Museum’s new home.
Past SDA President Candace Edgerley is an artist and educator who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. She specializes in shibori-dyed silk and cotton and incorporates her hand-dyed fabrics into wall pieces and clothing. Recently retired from teaching surface design at Corcoran College of Art + Design, she continues to teach at Art League School in Alexandria, VA.
Edgerley served as president of Surface Design Association from 2009-2012.