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The Woodard Campus Center at Mary Washington College is the site for the Costume Symposium sessions. The focus will be on how best to use the tools and resources available to teach effectively.


by Kevin McCluskey
Symposium Coordinator


2004 Costume Symposium to Highlight Teaching Strategies

Here's a familiar scenario: you get your first teaching job at the State University of Anywhere, and agree to tackle a four-four teaching load in a BA, BFA, or MFA program designing two productions a semester. Then something happens, a slight panic envelopes you as you sit at your desk trying to decide how to provide the best education within the confines of the discipline and realizing that formal training is significantly different than the current situation.

This year's Costume Symposium, Teaching Costuming: Sharing Strategies-Creating Solutions, is an attempt to stem that panic by providing participants with three days of intensive sessions geared toward strengthening teaching methods in the classes of costume curriculum in all academic aspects: BA, BFA, MFA, and conservatory.

By not focusing on one degree-granting environment for the entire symposium, participants can cross-reference ranges and styles of teaching to meet the specific challenges imposed on the discipline by the academic environment.

Costume designers and educators understand that costume construction skills are costume construction skills regardless of degree level. However, there are specific challenges imposed on each costume course by the degree focus, and it is not always immediately clear how best to meet those challenges. Hopefully, by defining commonalities as well as determining differences, participants can decide what parallels, if any, may be drawn between degree structures that lead to new strategies or affirm existing strategies that enhance teaching.

In a moderated working session format, participants will define challenges relevant to individual costume courses and then explore possible solutions by sharing personal teaching strategies used to meet those challenges. The sessions are moderated by the conference coordinator and a co-moderator who have expertise in the area of the session.

In addition, a costume director from a Washington D.C. professional theatre will share observations relative to preparing students to function in the professional world.

After an introductory session defining and investigating both general and specific pedagogical challenges related to different degree structures, the symposium will move to focused working sessions for each of the costume areas.

Sessions will be devoted to teaching costume construction and technology; costume design; costume history; make-up design; and teaching all costuming skills in a single class offering. Each symposium participant will receive a CD-ROM with copies of materials provided by members in each session.

And there will be a road trip! The second day of the symposium is a day trip to Richmond, Virginia. Participants will be treated to a curator-led tour of the Valentine Museum's costume and textile collection as well as tour the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts that houses an excellent collection of Faberge eggs and related ephemera, as well as exquisite Art Deco and Art Nouveau furnishings and accessories.

Finally, a wine and cheese reception at the James Monroe Presidential Museum in Fredericksburg will feature mid-19th century clothing, jewelry, and shoes from the Monroe family.

The symposium is August 5 to 7, and will be held on the Mary Washington College campus in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Fredericksburg is a truly historic city.

It is not only the site of the Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg (from the college one can walk to the hillside where Confederate soldiers waited for and later fought the advancing Union soldiers), but was home to George Washington and members of his family.

One can visit George Washington's birthplace, Ferry Farm, or, tour Kenmore, the home of the Betty Washington Lewis, George's sister. There is also the opportunity to visit George's mother's home nestled in the quaint downtown.

For those less inclined to answer the call of history, an extra day's trip to Washington, D.C., can have you hopping on the Metro to tour G-Street Fabrics, catching a show at the Shakespeare Theatre or Washington Opera, or visiting the National Gallery, National Textile Museum, or Cochran Gallery.

Those new to the profession can come and ask questions. Those established (or somewhere in between) may consider spending some time with colleagues sharing strategies, and creating solutions for teaching costuming.

For more information, contact Symposium Coordinator Kevin McCluskey at 540- 654-1979 or, or download the brochure (PDF) which contains the application.

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