Fashion Scholar Kristen Stewart Returns to Richmond from San Francisco
Accepts Position of Valentine’s Nathalie L. Klaus Curator of Costumes & Textiles
RICHMOND, Va. – On September 1, Kristen E. Stewart will return to her native Richmond to begin her work with the Valentine as the Nathalie L. Klaus Curator of Costumes and Textiles. Stewart is excited about working with the 40,000–piece textile collection and is grateful for the support the board has given to preserve and interpret it. For the grand re-opening of the Valentine, she plans to tell the story of classical roots in Richmond fashion. She’s been working as a curatorial assistant in San Francisco’s Fine Arts Museums since 2013 in the Caroline & H. McCoy Jones Department of Textile Arts.
Stewart brings a highly informed perspective to Richmond’s first privately owned and operated museum. Having worked for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan, she’s seen the world’s strongest and largest collection and she says the Valentine’s collection definitely has the makings of an encyclopedic one and says “the quality of the pieces is very strong.” Stewart has spent time in impressive collections and the Valentine’s collection feels “familiar in scope and quality,” she says, referring to her immersion at the Costume Institute.
“The Valentine’s costume collection is uniquely comprehensive compared to many fine Southern institutions such as the Mint Museum in Charlotte or the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina,” says Stewart, and “it has the breadth of both costume and flat textiles – features that allow a curator to engage in a dialog about their relationship in hand-sewn traditions” she continues. “Both textiles and costumes speak to the corporal experience of what it means to be human,” Stewart says. She is excited about sharing her knowledge about the ways fashion reflects societal change and innovation. Valentine patrons will be in for a big treat.
A Richmonder from the days of Tuckahoe Elementary and Freeman High, Stewart worked seven years with the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan after earning her Masters of Arts, Cum Laude in Fashion and Textile Studies from the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. Her path to New York, and later, San Francisco, was set when she took a Virginia Commonwealth University course on the history of fashion after leaving Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Her passion for fashion earned her a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Fashion Design from VCU, and after graduating, she worked in New York as a fashion designer and illustrator, and with the Calvin Klein Archive before beginning her masters program at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Stewart has curated exhibitions; written scholarly works; cataloged objects for accession and de-accession; participated in the move of a 20,000-object collection from the Brooklyn Costume Museum to the Costume Institute with the help of a talented team, and lectured throughout America and at Mansfield College in Oxford, England. Her fashion experience is practical and academic – she even re-created Paul Poiret’s 1922 gold lamé evening dress, “Irudrée,” and presented notes on her experience to members of the Costume Society of America.
Collaboration is a big part of what Stewart does, and she wants to work with the VCU School of the Arts to create regular study visits to view objects in the textile collection, something she sees as invaluable when studying art. On coming home to Richmond, Stewart says she can’t wait to join creative forces with her good friends who are now making a difference in Richmond’s culture through the Richmond Young Writers group and the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Look out!
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The Valentine preserves, conserves and interprets Richmond, Virginia history and diverse community issues by focusing on urban and social history, costumes, decorative arts and architecture. It is the only institution in the country committed solely to this mission and it is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. It houses a 40,000-piece collection of textiles and costumes, one of the largest Western collections of its kind. The Valentine maintains more than one million photographic images of the city, and 25,000 decorative arts pieces, including portraits, furniture and domestic items. Its research library provides primary source material for national and international scholars. The Valentine-owned 1812 John Wickham House is listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.
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