Dr. Elka Stevens, an Associate Professor of visual culture and studio art, serves as Fashion Design program coordinator and textiles collection curator in Howard University’s Art Department. As an interdisciplinary scholar and artist, Elka uses textiles and clothing as a lens of analysis, inspiration, and media for her scholarship. Current research topics include media and design pedagogy, black designers, and Zoom® and impression management. Current fiber and digital creative works explore identity, sustainability, and social justice. Stevens teaches design, textiles, international trade, visual culture, and consumer behavior courses. Three decades of educational, design, retail, media, collections, and industry experience – plus international travel – inform her teaching, research, and studio practice. Elka received her PhD from the University of Minnesota and maintains membership in various service and professional organizations. Dr. Stevens has also recently been a 2019-20 Council of American Overseas Research Centers – Center American Institute of Indian Studies (CAORC – AIIS) fellow, a 2021 Summer Institute for Israel Studies at Brandeis University fellow, and is currently Artist-in-Residence: Creative Practice in Critical Race Studies in the Department of Art at Michigan State University for the 2021-22 academic term.
Please join the MSU Department of Art, Art History, and Design at The Union Art Gallery on Michigan State Universities' Campus for 38.8%: Visualizing Racial Identity in Search of Selfhood and Others, featuring the work of 2021-2022 Artist-in-Residence: Critical Race Studies, Dr. Elka Stevens. This exhibition is on view Monday, April 25 – Friday, June 10, 2022. In 38.8%, artist and designer Elka Stevens visually interrogates aspects of race, ethnicity, nationality, genetics, and their presentation as part of identity. Although many aspects of identity are out of people’s control and largely unseen, clothing allows individuals and groups to communicate messages about themselves, their cultures, activities, events, locations, and employment. Using textiles and clothing as a primary vehicle to present ideas about race, Stevens presents a mini-collection of stylized, wearable garments for women and selected artifacts that engage both the viewer and wearer in a dialogue about race and identity that explores how we wear our identities. Featured garments and accessories include dresses, a skirt, and a wrap. A quilt and blanket also narrate the social and physical attributes of race. The designs incorporate sewing techniques, such as embroidery, quilting, and applique. Surface design techniques incorporate aspects of genealogy research into the collection. Archival research and imagery also contribute to the works, through motifs that include a family charts document and present wearable family histories. Color, along with other elements of design and their guiding principles, bring attention to an articulated genetic makeup. In sum, 38.8% is a re-presentation of a lived experience through worn and displayed objects.
Click here to participate in the contest associated with 38.8% and to see a bit more about the exhibition!
Alma Thomas' Dresses
Recreated for Alma Thomas: Everything is Beautiful Exhibition (2021-2022)
Alma W. Thomas (1891-1978) is an African American abstractionist painter and was the first graduate of Howard University’s Department of Art in 1924. Alma Thomas: Everything is Beautiful, a touring exhibition, features a comprehensive overview of Alma's work, including over 100 pieces. Also featured are recreations of the day dress or smock in which she often painted and the gown Alma wore to Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition opening in 1972. Alma Thomas: Everything is Beautiful is currently at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia. It can also be viewed online here. The exhibition will be traveling to the Phillips in Washington, DC, the Frist in Nashville, Tennessee, and to The Columbus Museum in Columbus, Georgia in 2021 to 2022.
The recreated day dress fabric (red and white checkerboard) is available for purchase. Click here. All proceeds from the sale of this fabric and products available on Spoonflower.com will be donated to Howard University's Alma Thomas Endowment Scholarship Fund. If you would like to make a donation directly, please click here. You may also purchase specially-designed items featuring the checkerboard pattern from the Chrysler Museum Gift Shop. Click here, which is also donating a portion of proceeds to the Alma Thomas Endowment Scholarship Fund at Howard University. Finally, if you would like to make your own Alma Thomas Day Dress, the pattern is forthcoming!
All proceeds from its sale will be donated to the Alma Thomas Endowment Scholarship Fund. Contact me below to be notified when the pattern is available.
Junior Faculty Writing and Creative Works Summer Academy Quilts
From 2016 to 2019, the Office of Faculty Development in the Office of the Provost at Howard University with the generous support of The Andrew Mellon Foundation, sponsors the Junior Faculty Writing & Creative Works Summer Academy to support untenured, full-time faculty produce scholarly publications and/or creative works. Each year to commemorate the junior faculty who complete the program and thier mentors, I have been comissioned to create a quilt. To date, in excess of 130 junior faculty, 35 senior scholars, and 6 visiting faculty scholars have participated in the Summer Academy. All photographs by the srtist.
Hanging on the first floor of Founder's Library near the entrance/exit on the upper quadrangle on the campus of Howard University.
Hanging on the first floor of Howard University's Interdisciplinary Research Building (HU-IRB) on Georgia Avenue, NW between Bryant and W Streets.
Hanging on the first floor of the Louis Stokes Health Sciences Library at Howard University located at 501 W Street, NW.
To he hung in Burr Gymnasiom on the campus of Howard University.
In progress. Location to be determined.
Join us on Monday, April 25th in the Union Gallery on the Michigan State University campus for the opening reception for 38.8%: Visualizing Racial Identity in Search of Selfhood and Others, featuring the work of 2021-2022 Artist-in-Residence: Critical Race Studies, Dr. Elka Stevens.
...[T]his dressy-casual fusion will be heralded by innovations in...performance textiles...due to the growing need for material that presents a polished image while remaining [breathable} and comfortable... (Referencing post-COVID clothing trends)
"D.C. Designers React to Post-Pandemic Fashion Trends",District Fray, July 2021in
...[Purple is] a colour of significance in the black community - one tied to the Christian experience as well. (Referencing the Vice President Kamala Harris' inaugural attire)
"Inauguration Fashion: Purple, Pearls, and Mittens",BBC News, January 2021in
Email, Mail, or Call
Use the form below to write and send Elka Stevens a message.