Camille Ann Brewer at the Textile Museum of America
By Wendy Weiss, TSA Communications Director and Newsletter Editor
Camille Ann Brewer has been working energetically to develop programs, outreach, and a curatorial vision since arriving at the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum on October 10, 2016. She inherited three exhibitions in her position as the first curator of contemporary art at the museum and is developing a program for future exhibitions and collection development. A longtime member of the museum, with a deep commitment to the arts in general and textiles specifically, she understands her charge is facilitate museum visitors to “discover Washington and the world.” Her goal is to honor the legacy of George Hewitt Myers, who founded the museum in 1925, while taking advantage of current technologies to engage 21st century audiences.
Camille Ann Brewer
At the end of a long day in the early stages of unpacking and installing the last of the three exhibitions, Uncommon Thread: The Box Project, September 30- January 29, 2018, she paused to discuss her work at the museum with me, eleven months into the job. As she explained the installation decisions she made for Scraps: Fashion, Textiles, and Creative Reuse, (through January 7, 2018) organized by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, it became clear that as curator she is juggling a myriad of responsibilities including exhibition design, project development, supervision of interns, public programming, outreach, and collaboration with colleagues across departments both within the museum and across the University.
With a background in library sciences augmenting her history as a hand weaver and curator, Brewer is eager to make the collections available online. She realizes that to capture new and younger audiences, it is essential to tap into social media and reach out through Instagram and Twitter, meet-up groups, and Facebook. She understands that if she can react quickly and deftly, through new media and personal contact, others will step in to help spread the word. For example, she pointed out how visitors will find hashtags on exhibition labels that they can use in their social media posts or she will use the “mommy blog” phenomenon to reach out to a new audience for children’s programming.
A series of travel engagements will occupy a good part of her second year at the Textile Museum: she has both international and domestic trips—from Japan and West Africa to the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan and the College Art Association in Los Angeles for a paper presentation.
She will welcome artist Faig Ahmed of Baku, Azerbaijan, to the museum for a week later this year to research The Textile Museum’s historic collections. Known for his reinterpretations of classical carpet weavings, he will create a new body of work based on his research. In the fall of 2018, the museum will mount a combination of his earlier work, works from the collection he selects, and his new works that responds to those textiles.
Reflecting on her accomplishments to date, Camille Brewer says she is excited about bringing new audiences into the museum. The exhibition Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, which closed July 24, 2017, received the most press of any previous show to date. She worked with colleagues to develop exciting programming from a red carpet student night to a children’s ball replete with dance lessons. In October, The Textile Museum will host a runway fashion show featuring student models and designers from Howard University’s Fashion Design Program who have created nearly twenty eclectic, upcycled designs.
In Spring 2020, audiences will experience Brewer’s first major curatorial project for the museum. Working with faculty in mathematics and computer science, she is building an exhibition with work by artists from West Africa, tentatively titled Knot Complex. Her pending trip to Senegal where she will attend Dak’Art, the Biennale of Contemporary African Art, will inform additional choices for this exhibition.
Brewer earned her BFA in Interdisciplinary Arts with distinction from the California College of the Arts. Her MFA is in Fine Art from the University of Michigan. In addition, she holds a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science from Valdosta State University in Georgia. Prior to her work at the Textile Museum, she was executive director of the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, a membership organization of libraries, universities, and archives dedicated to making accessible materials that document the African-American and African diaspora. She has also worked at Detroit Institute of Arts as an assistant curator.