Colorado State University Celebrates Legendary Fashion Icon Mr. Blackwell with Exhibit, Special Events with Carol Channing

The world’s largest collection of original designs by legendary fashion force Mr. Blackwell will be featured in an exhibit at Colorado State University’s Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising. The late Mr. Richard Blackwell – known as Mr. Blackwell – is best known for authoring the annual worst-dressed women list in Hollywood. He also was an extraordinary fashion designer.

The exhibit, “Mr. Blackwell: A Retrospective,” will open at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, and conclude on Friday, April 1, 2011, in the University Center for the Arts Avenir Gallery. The exhibit will feature 32 glamorous gowns – from outrageous to demure – designed by Mr. Blackwell.

As part of the celebration of this exhibit, Blackwell’s close friend, actress and Broadway star Carol Channing, will be on campus for the exhibit opening as well as his longtime partner, Robert Spencer.

“We are very excited to honor Mr. Blackwell’s legacy with an exhibit of his extraordinary work,” said Linda Carlson, curator of the Avenir Museum, which is located in the University Center for the Arts, 1400 Remington St. “The museum’s collection – the largest collection of Mr. Blackwell’s work – showcases his visionary influence on fashion and the breadth of his work. We’re also quite pleased that Ms. Channing and Robert Spencer will be joining us to honor their friend.”

The exhibit also will feature a documentary compiled of video of past television appearances given to the Avenir Museum by Blackwell as well as an interview by Carlson with Blackwell in his home, interviews with friends and footage from a visit to CSU in 1996. The documentary will be shown continuously with the exhibit.

The Avenir Museum holds more than 130 accessories and garments designed by Mr. Blackwell and is the largest collection of his work in the world. The collection ranges from formal gowns to men’s ties and feathered boas. A number of artifacts were given to the museum by the designer in addition to seven large scrapbooks that chronicle his career, his master patterns, and promotional materials including his sketches and fashion photos.

The free and public events surrounding the exhibit are:

– Inaugural lecture, “The Fine Art of Contemporary Design and the Legacy of Mr. Blackwell,” 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21, at the University Center for the Arts Annex, featuring designer and guest curator Ali Rahimi. Rahimi dressed Emmy award winner Jane Lynch, a star of the TV series “Glee,” for the awards in August, when Lynch won outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series.

– Gala opening reception, 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, University Center for the Arts Avenir Gallery.

– Evening lecture, “The Designing Life of American Legend James Galanos,” 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18, University Center for the Arts Annex.

– Evening lecture, “Mr. Blackwell’s Worst-Dressed Women – The List,” 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, University Center for the Arts Annex.

Blackwell, who died in October 2008 at the age of 86, was also an actor, TV and radio personality, book author and journalist in addition to being a fashion critic and designer. His “Ten Worst-Dressed Women” list was unveiled each January. He also published the “Fabulous Fashion Independents” list and annually reviewed Academy Award fashions, now a tradition in the media. For 47 years, Mr. Blackwell’s worst-dressed women’s list chronicled Hollywood’s fashion fiascos. The lists, first published in 1960, eventually became an annual ritual in Hollywood and covered by media around the world. Stars and celebrities such as Cher, Martha Stewart and even Queen Elizabeth made the list – those on the list often favored the media attention.
Blackwell’s acting career began when, as a teen, he made his first appearance on Broadway. He eventually became a Hollywood agent.

Blackwell launched his clothing line in the late 1950s. He became the first designer to present his line on a television broadcast and make designer garments available to plus-sized women. The House of Blackwell designed for famous women including Jayne Mansfield, Jane Russell and Nancy Reagan.

As a CSU Monfort Professor-in-Residence, Channing also will be teaching a master theater class to CSU music and theater students and guests on Saturday, Oct. 23, at the university. Due to limited seating, the free event is filled to capacity.

The Monfort Professors-in-Residence program, established in 2002, brings to campus distinguished leaders who are nationally and internationally renowned for contributions to the fields of business, government, the sciences and the arts and who interact with students and enrich their learning experiences. The program is supported by the Monfort Family Foundation.