Apr 092009
Authors: Chloe Wittry

Judi Arndt, a retired interior and textile designer, has 400 pieces of clothing, shoes, and other goods from Central Asia, Southeast Asia, China, India and Africa that she plans to donate to CSU when she passes away.

More recently, however, she donated an Afghan boy’s shirt to the collection of about several dozen Asian and African textile artifacts on display Thursday in the Avenir Design and Merchandising Museum opening gallery show.

“The 400 pieces are set up as a gift to give to the university,” Arndt said. “I started to think, ‘I have all these great pieces in my home, what will I do with them when I’m gone?'”

Arndt spent time traveling after she retired and started collecting pieces to help promote designers from different countries in the U.S.

“I travel with groups of people that are focused on textiles so they have important connections in other countries,” Arndt said, adding that she is planning a trip to Uzbekistan with Linda Carlson, Mary Littrell, and Molly Eckmen, all instructors in the Design and Merchandising Department, to interview artists who are working to market their own designs.

“We will be going to try to promote their work,” she said. “There will be an exhibit next year in the (Avenir museum) of pieces that we collect from Uzbekistan.”

Arndt said that a lot of the pieces she collects now are contemporary and she buys them to help support the craft. She donates pieces to the museum so that they can be preserved and appreciated by students and community members in years to come.

“I feel like the CSU Department of Merchandising is growing tremendously and I decided it was a good fit for the pieces I have collected,” she said.

Allice Wallace, president of The Avenir Foundation, which donated funds to the Avenir Design and Merchandising Museum, contributed many pieces to the exhibit as well.

Wallace said she has always been interested in textiles and clothing since her first textile class in the eighth grade.

“I’m very interested in promoting textiles as a true art form like paintings and sculptures,” she said. “People think textiles are not art — that’s a misconception — they’re not just a part of our daily life, they’re true art forms.”

Wallace participated in volunteer work before she started the foundation. She was on the Board of the Textile Museum in Washington D.C., and she is still on the board as a trustee.

She started taking trips to search out textiles and was part of a group that used to meet regularly in Denver to learn about and discuss textiles and clothing. One of the precious pieces Wallace donated is a small Singer Portable, an old sewing machine that she received as an engagement present, still in pristine condition.

“The things that I have donated are things that mean a lot to me,” Wallace said. “They are my family history — I wanted others to be able to appreciate them and I wanted them to be kept safe.”

Among the pieces that Wallace donated are a small handbag with embroidery from the 19th century, hand woven linen sheets from the 1700s, and her grandpa’s baby clothes that were made in England by hand.

The opening exhibition on Thursday evening featured only a small percentage of the about 12,000 artifacts in possession by CSU. It featured a small gallery of colorful shoes, hats, dresses, bags and more from Africa, Central and South America, Asia, India and numerous other countries from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Mary Littrell, the head of the Design and Merchandise Department, said that guided tours of the gallery start this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and will continue in the weeks to come. The gallery is the only area that will always be open to the public. There is a separate, humidity and temperature-controlled gallery in the building that holds thousands of other pieces and can only be seen on a guided-tour.

Staff writer Chloe Wittry can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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