Happy Birthday Helen Louise Allen!
Professor Allen spent her life teaching, traveling, and collecting the thousands of textiles in her legacy collection—a sample of which can be seen from now until April 14 in both the Design Gallery and Mecklenburg Textile Gallery.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Allen’s initial gift of 4,000 pieces, the foundations of today’s collection of more than 13,000 objects. In honor of what would have been her 117th birthday, we commemorate her with an overview of the collection’s most recent acquisition—”Helen in Thread”!
This was a collaborative piece of art, with each person involved adding more life to the textile project. The project began with Professor Carolyn Kallenborn and students in the fashion event planning course. They came up with the creative direction for the 2019 student-run fashion show, entitled “Inspired by the Past, Influencing the Future.”
Using visual direction created for the fashion show, Interior Architecture student Amelia Fiest tranformed a well-known black-and-white photograph of Allen and gave it a new, colorful look.
Kallenborn sent the graphic image to a talented street artist located in Oaxaca, Luis Alonso Ruiz. Ruiz recreated the image in thread on a base of hot pink silk shantung. The finished textile is eye-grabbing and perfectly ties together the past and the future of textiles.
“Helen In Thread” will become a permanent part of the collection and honor Helen Louise Allen and her belief that textiles are carriers of human culture.
In 2019, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Human Ecology launched a yearlong anniversary celebration of the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection. Over the past half century, the collection has grown from an original 4,000-piece gift to more than 13,000 objects that have inspired and informed thousands of students, researchers, historians, and textile aficionados. The 50-year celebration began on January 27, 2019, with the opening of new Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery, a space dedicated to year-round displays of the collections. Activities continue into 2019 with a calendar of public exhibitions, symposia, lectures, and public workshops.