Next Story in this issue
News & Notices
Fellows Named
In Memoriam:
News From:
Conference & Stage Expo
For the Record

Rebecca Cunningham (center) receives her USITT Distinguished Achievement Award in Costume Design & Technology 2008 and a floral tribute from Commisioners Kristina Tollefson and Joel Ebarb.

Photo/Tom Thatcher


Cunningham Honored for
Costume Work

Esther Van Eek
Costume Design & Technology Commission

Every year at the USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo, the Costume Design & Technology Commission offers a variety of engaging and inspiring sessions to fill our days and feed our souls. At this year's conference, no session was more inspiring than An Evening with Rebecca Cunningham. Ms. Cunningham received USITT's Distinguished Achievement Award for Costuming as part of the session.

Costume Co-Commissioner Joel Ebarb gave a lovely introduction to the designer and teacher probably best known to the assembled crowd for her comprehensive and indispensable book, The Magic Garment.

The ever-humble and humorous Ms. Cunningham took us along with her on a winding journey from 3-year-old designer, through design school, training in advertising art, and later, an MFA in theatre design which led to her teaching career. She described, in heart-wrenching detail, her struggle to gain parity and promotion within a patriarchal system that didn't recognize her research and creative activity as significant.

Ms. Cunningham, a professor of costume design and technology at Brooklyn College, is also an authority on Eastern European women theatrical artists and designers, lecturing and publishing widely on the subject. Her article in TD&T, "Russian Women Artists/Designers of the Avant-Garde," won a Herbert D. Greggs Award in 1999.

As a free-lance costume designer, Ms. Cunningham has worked in Off-Broadway, regional, and educational venues. As an accomplished watercolor artist, her work has been exhibited in Louisiana and New York.

In addition to her professional career, Ms. Cunningham has been an active and integral participant in multiple Costume Design & Technology Commission activities for many years.

The arc of her development as an artist paralleled Ms. Cunningham's journey as a writer and eventually as a published author. The book she "didn't even think [she] could write" and which now has a place within easy reach of so many, earned her a standing ovation from the audience of her students, colleagues, and peers.

When asked what she saw as the biggest change over her years as an educator, Ms. Cunningham replied, "Perception of the work we do has changed." It was pure delight to spend some time with the person whose efforts did much to bring about that change. The Costume Design & Technology Commission thanks Ms. Cunningham for a delightful evening.

To Top