May 4 Fashion Exhibitions
Fashions of the ’60s and ’70s
Historic and social events are often reflected in the fashion designs, styles and trends of an era. Examples of this were seen in two exhibitions put on by the Kent State University Museum as its contribution to the yearlong commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the May 4, 1970 shootings. The exhibitions explored the fashion divide of the ’60s and ’70s and the current day dialogue about social justice, political discourse, conflict resolution and war and peace.
The grand opening reception for Culture/CounterCulture: Fashion of the 1960s and ’70s and Wearing Justice: Perspectives from the Kent State School of Fashion took place on September 19, 2019. A record number of nearly 400 guests attended the opening, with President Todd Diacon addressing the crowd and acknowledging the kick-off of 50th commemoration events dedicated to honoring the lives lost in the shootings on the Kent Campus.
Sara Hume, PhD, a curator at the Kent State University Museum, curated Culture/CounterCulture. “The museum’s collection is very strong in dresses owned by socialites and celebrities of the 1960s and ’70s, particularly because the founders, Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman, were important figures in the New York fashion industry during that period,” says Hume. “We have supplemented the museum’s holdings with pieces borrowed from people in the community, as well as from other institutions, such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Ohio History Connection, in order to show the real diversity of dress.”
Many styles still worn today have roots in the counterculture of the 1960s. Tensions of that period focused on questions of race, gender identity and military involvement—all of which remain relevant today.
For the second exhibition, the School of Fashion made a call for submissions from the school’s talented faculty and fashion students. The proposal was simple: “What does social justice and activism today look like for you?” The results were exhibited in Wearing Justice, which tested the boundaries of creativity as participants designed garments that addressed critical, current issues we face in our world today.
Chanjuan Chen, MFA, and Sue Yoder, MFA, assistant professors at Kent State’s School of Fashion, curated the exhibition, and Amanda Pecsenye, a curator at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, served as the exhibition’s juror. The exhibition was a testament to the talents of everyone involved. It included designs that confronted the reverberation of May 4 and others that focused on today’s global concerns from gun violence to climate change to corporate greed. Photos by Bob Christy, BS ’95
Like the rest of the world, museums large and small across the county immediately shut their doors and moved daily operations to digital mode.
Unlike other businesses, however, we have precious collections and facilities that must still be closely monitored. As arrangements were made for onsite coverage, our staff of six transitioned to working from home.
The tasks these days fall into four categories:
- The first is keeping operations on track, like paying bills and managing communications.
- The second is increasing our content and communications through social media and electronically, so we can keep connected to our audiences.
- The third is preparing for future exhibitions; we are looking to move exhibits scheduled for May and June to later in the summer and keep on track with plans for the fall.
- The fourth is developing contingency plans for when we reopen. Will this be gradual? How will we clean? When can we receive shipments? When will people feel comfortable about visiting cultural institutions?
Needless to say, there is much to accomplish and many video conferences fill our days. —Sarah Rogers