THE SAN JOSE MUSEUM OF QUILTS AND TEXTILES (SJMQT) announced its new director will be Camille Ann Brewer. A Detroit, Mich.-based curator, handweaver, and archivist, Brewer will shape the museum’s vision and strategy, leading operations, exhibitions and programming, the collection, community engagement, and donor relations.

Brewer brings a spectrum of experience to SJMQT, more than two decades across museums, academia, and art sector work as a consultant and entrepreneur. She recently served as curator of contemporary art at The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum at GWU in Washington, D.C. She officially starts at the San Jose, Calif., museum in early May.

The co-chairs of SJMQT’s board of directors issued statements that accompanied the appointment announcement. Co-Chair Melissa Leventon said, “We are thrilled that we were able to attract someone of Camille’s caliber to direct the Museum. Her depth of collections experience, textile knowledge, and fundraising success positions the Museum well for the future.” Co-Chair Tien Chiu said, “We considered several highly qualified candidates for the director position. Camille rose to the top with her strong vision for the future of the Museum and how to get us there.”

A CALIFORNIA NATIVE, Brewer is joining SJMQT from Detroit, where she operates Erik Van Wert Dye Works, a hand-weaving studio that produces sustainable textile products. At George Washington University, Brewer was The Textile Museum’s first full-time curator of contemporary textile art (2016-18). During her tenure, she served as a liaison between the museum and GWU’s Corcoran School of Art and Design, developed a new contemporary artist fellowship program at the museum, and curated “Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair,” among other exhibitions.

Previously, Brewer served as executive director for the Black Metropolis Research Consortium at the University of Chicago. She also owned CAB Fine Art Ltd., a consultancy through which she built collections and organized exhibitions for museums, academic institutions, corporations, and private collectors. Earlier in her career, she was an assistant curator of African art at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Brewer has taught weaving and fiber art at higher education institutions. An experienced author and public speaker, she recently contributed essays to publications dedicated to Detroit artist Shirley Woodson and late fashion designer Willi Smith. She holds a masters of library and information science from Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga.; earned an MFA in textile design from University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; and also received a BFA with distinction from California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

Camille Ann Brewer is joining the museum at a critical time in its history and a dynamic period in the field of quilts and textile art.

ESTABLISHED IN 1977, the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles describes itself as the first U.S. museum dedicated exclusively to quilts and textiles. The museum has an annual budget of approximately $750,000 (2021-22) and a collection of about 1,400 works, with only a few African American artists represented. Its board is composed entirely of women. The museum’s staff is also all-female, with the exception of its manager of operations and facilities.

Celebrating its 45th year, the museum strives to be a world-class institution. At a critical moment determining its future direction, the museum sought a new director to drive its strategy and growth, with a focus on fundraising, building expansion, program development, American Alliance of Museums accreditation, and a real commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the organization.

Quilt and textile artists have long fought to have their work considered beyond the lens of women’s work and craft. The category is finally receiving much-deserved attention as historic, modern, and contemporary art.

Over the past two decades, the curatorial and scholarly interest in Harriet Powers’s 19th century Bible quilts, quilts by Alabama artists from Gee’s Bend, abstract creations by Bay Area artist Rosie Lee Tompkins (1936-2006), and Faith Ringgold’s stunning story quilts, has opened up a variety of opportunities, including welcome reception from museums, for new generations of contemporary artists working in the medium of quilts, including Bisa Butler, Christopher Myers, Stephen Towns, Sanford Biggers, Phyllis Stephens, Michael A. Cummings, Michael C. Thorpe, and Hank Willis Thomas.

Sonya Clark, Yinka Shonibare, Sonia Gomes, Billy Zangewa, and Diedrick Brackens of Los Angeles, to name a few, are among the artists who have developed critically recognized practices working with fabric, thread, and textile materials.

Brewer is joining the museum at a critical time in its history and a dynamic period in the field. “I’m excited about this opportunity at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles for several reasons. I’m returning to the Bay Area, home of my alma mater California College of the Arts,” she told Culture Type by email.

“In addition, the museum is positioned in the city’s Arts District, which has a growing audience. Finally, California is my home. My family moved from Texas to California in the late 19th century. I’m thrilled to be a part of an institution that celebrates California’s legacy and history in the textile arts.” CT

 

FIND MORE Patterns of Life, a Google Arts & Culture feature explores quilts by African American artists in the collection of the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles

 

FIND MORE Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Social Justice Sewing Academy “empowers individuals to use textile art as a framework for activism”

 

BOOKSHELF
Camille Ann Brewer contributed essays to “Willi Smith: Street Couture” and “Palette for the People: The Vibrant World of Shirley Woodson.” Two early volumes provide an overview of the quilts made by Gee’s Bend, Ala., quilters, “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend” and “Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt.” The exhibition catalog “Sonya Clark: Monumental Cloth, The Flag We Should Know” was recently published. “Diedrick Brackens: darling divined” was published on the occasion of a traveling museum of the same name. “Bisa Butler: Portraits” documents the artist’s first museum exhibition. “Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories” was published to accompany an exhibition of the same name. The exhibition catalog “Sanford Biggers: Codeswith” focuses on a series of repurposed quilts by the artist. Plus, three new volumes explore the work of Faith Ringgold, “Faith Ringgold: American People,” “Faith Ringgold: Politics/Power,” “Faith Ringgold”

 

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