New Museum Holds First-Ever Program on Campus

The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum examines sustainability, traditional arts in new lecture series.

The George Washingon University Museum and The Textile Museum's first program featured master designer Stetephanie Odegard.
November 07, 2014
The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum kicked off its new “Voices of American Design” lecture series on Thursday, marking the first educational event to be held in the new museum building on the Foggy Bottom Campus.
The museum will open to the general public with three exhibitions on March 21, 2015. Visitors can attend several events, programs and lectures leading up to the opening, including conversations with master artists in “Voices of American Design,” a series that will explores many facets of American design from glass works to wood turning. 
“We’re really excited about the opportunities in this new building—we’ve calculated the number of exhibition programs relative to the former Textile Museum, and in the first year of operation, we anticipate four times the number of evening programs, drop-in lunch programs and programs by faculty and students,” said John Wetenhall, director of the museum.
Thursday’s inaugural “Voices of American Design” lecture featured Stephanie Odegard, an internationally renowned leader in contemporary carpet design. Ms. Odegard has devoted her career to helping developing countries preserve their artistic traditions. The sold-out event invited both design and textile enthusiasts to explore the museum’s expansive Myers multipurpose room, where future public programs and lectures will take place.
“This new series represents how our museum will be showcasing the work of many artists who have a passion for creating beautiful things by hand in a world that has is quickly losing that know-how,” said Tom Goehner, education curator at the new museum.
Ms. Odegard leads Stephanie Odegard Collection, a New York-based company she started in 1987 that utilizes natural materials and employs highly skilled craftspeople in developing nations. Her designs can be found in the Phillips Collection, the J.P. Getty Museum and elsewhere. Ms. Odegard also is a founding board member of GoodWeave, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting child labor in the carpet industry. 
Her commitment to social responsibility began when she was a Peace Corps volunteer in Fiji. Her time on the island gave her an appreciation for the beauty of traditional crafts, she explained.   
“What I discovered was this rich traditional industry that had never been brought to the public’s attention,” she said.
Ms. Odegard later joined the U.N. as a marketing consultant, visiting many countries in the South Pacific to help artisans develop industries around their crafts. She pioneered efforts that ensured working artists were able to market their goods.
These experiences have informed Ms. Odegard’s company, recognized for its high-quality textiles produced in socially conscious environments. Ms. Odegard shared several examples of her company’s designs on Thursday, showcasing the vegetative, natural dyes that give color to resilient wools from the high mountains of Tibet. Workers from disadvantaged regions often card, spin and clean the wool Ms. Odegard uses.
“The most important thing I do is human sustainability,” she explained. “When you give someone work, it sustains their whole life and their family forever.” 
“Voices of American Design” will continue on Jan. 8 with “Taking Shape: How Natural Materials Can Inspire Design,” a lecture spotlighting members of the Moulthrop family, whose modern wood-turning aesthetic can be found in New York’s Museum of Arts and Design, the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery and Wisconsin’s Racine Art Museum, among others. Glass artist Dan Dailey will follow with a discussion of his vases, chandeliers, windows and other sculptures on Feb. 12. Tickets for each lecture in the series are $10.
Arts & Culture, Julyssa Lopez