Seams fitting: Avenir Museum honors supporters with opening exhibits

Honoring the past with an eye to the future is the theme as the CSU Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising opens in January in a beautiful new facility.

The grand opening has been set for Saturday, Jan. 30, from 2 to 5 p.m., 216 E. Lake St. in Fort Collins.

Thanks to a lead gift from the Avenir Foundation and funding from other benefactors, the Avenir Museum underwent a significant transformation over the past several months. Located east of the University Center for the Arts, the museum renovated approximately 8,000 square feet in the current Avenir facility and added 10,000 square feet, allowing for three galleries, classroom and seminar space, a library, a conservation laboratory and expanded collection storage and management areas.

photo of the Avenir

“All of the inaugural exhibitions in the new Avenir galleries have seams connecting them, even though they are so different from one another,” said Doreen Beard, director of operations and engagement. “They are held together by one overarching theme: the passion of our loyal supporters for the woven stories told by our clothing and textiles.”

The exhibitions

Four opening exhibitions feature the work or collections of just a few of the many dedicated supporters of the museum.

Mr. Blackwell: “Artist of Subtle Witchery” — This exhibition features the timeless creations of fashion designer Richard Blackwell, known as “Mr. Blackwell.” Blackwell’s relationship to the collection dates back to the 1980s, and he visited CSU twice to give lectures and meet with students. The Avenir Museum holds the world’s largest collection of Mr. Blackwell designs, and 13 of them will be on display in The Richard Blackwell Gallery. In addition to donating his original gowns, master patterns and personal scrapbooks, Mr. Blackwell and his partner, Robert Spencer, left a substantial estate gift to the museum, which funded state-of-the-art storage and named the gallery. Mr. Blackwell passed away in 2008 and Spencer in 2014.

Layers of Meaning: Color and Design in Guatemalan Textiles — This colorful exhibition in the Large Gallery of the new museum features traditional Guatemalan textiles, donated to the Avenir Museum by two longtime supporters: New Mexico-based textile and folk art collector and author Martha Egan and Mary Littrell, textile collector and former head of the Department of Design and Merchandising.

photo of the Avenir sign

Tiny Bits and Pieces — Lucile Hawks (’58), donor and longtime supporter of the historic costume and textiles collection, is also a talented quilter. This exhibition, in the Lucile E. Hawks Gallery space, features exquisite miniature quilts, which are part of the Avenir Museum’s permanent collection.

“Lucile’s quilts are wonderful examples of historic as well as modern quilt patterns,” said Megan Osborne, curator of the Avenir Museum. “They have been invaluable teaching tools in the collection for many years, and there is something very fulfilling about being able to feature pieces created by an alumna.”

The Power of Maya Women’s Artistry — A traveling exhibition of contemporary work by the textile artists of Cooperativa de Alfombras de Mujeres Maya en Guatemala (The Maya Women’s Rug Hooking Cooperative of Guatemala) will be in the Avenir Gallery, located in Room 115 of the main University Center for the Arts. The work by this rug hooking cooperative highlights one avenue of the evolution of Maya textile and cultural history, while creating artistic and economic opportunity for women from the highlands of Guatemala. The traveling exhibition is funded in part by the Don and May Wilkins Charitable Trust, the Avenir Museum Education Exhibition Endowment and Cooperativa de Alfombras de Mujeres Maya en Guatemala.

The Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising is part of CSU’s Department of Design and Merchandising in the College of Health and Human Sciences.