July 1, 2020

PEMcast Episode 018: Alterations

by joeyphoenix

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From The Peabody Essex Museum
Image Credit – Nick Cave with one of his Soundsuits at PEM in 2013. Photo by Allison White/PEM

Creativity and crisis are no strangers. In the ‘90s, artist Nick Cave responded to the police beating of Rodney King by building a suit made of sticks that would act as protective armor.

Later, when the Boston Marathon bombing occurred in 2013, Cave’s Soundsuits again saved the day at PEM when nearly 1,000 people gathered in the museum, feeling safe as they danced alongside the colorful pom pom-looking creations.

Soundsuits at PEM after-hours party in 2013
Soundsuits at PEM after-hours party in 2013. Photo by Kanty Tarantola/PEM.

Now as the Massachusetts stay-at-home order loosens from a months-long health crisis, PEM is looking toward reopening.

Instagram shot of the museum entrance and comments

Once again, we will open our doors and welcome the public during a time of crisis to provide uplift and inspiration. We are also looking at creative ways to protect ourselves. This time, with face coverings.

Petra Slinkard, PEM’s Nancy B. Putnam Curator of Fashion and Textiles, in a red mask.
Petra Slinkard, PEM’s Nancy B. Putnam Curator of Fashion and Textiles, in her comfortable running mask. Courtesy image.

In this episode of the PEMcast, Chip and I speak with two PEM curators, Petra Slinkard and Paula Richter, as we examine the role of unsung heroes — the home sewers who have turned up throughout history to help in times of crisis.

Paula Richter, PEM Curator for Exhibitions and Research., wearing a mask.
Paula Richter, PEM Curator for Exhibitions and Research. Courtesy image.

We then chat with Boston-based designer and Season 15 winner of Project Runway, Erin Robertson, about her mask-making efforts and what the future of fashion may be, thanks to the pandemic. Here’s a hint: day pajamas!

Erin Robertson wearing a mask, instagram shot

Before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, PEM’s Museum Shop merchandise director Victor Oliveira was thinking about how climate change would change retail and fashion. He worked to develop products to protect against harmful UV rays. One of his creations was a prototype for a new UV-resistant parasol. But then the virus struck and sent him in an entirely new direction.

In our Shop, you can find masks made of traditional Indian materials and masks designed by Carla Fernández, one of the designers in PEM’s upcoming exhibition Made It: The Women Who Revolutionized Fashion, opening in November.

Carla Fernández and Pedro Reyes wearing masks
Carla Fernández and Pedro Reyes collaborated on this mask that features the 68 spoken languages of Mexico. Courtesy photo.

Thank you to Petra Slinkard, Paula Richter, Trevor Smith and Erin Robertson. Follow Erin on Instagram @an_erin, and visit an-erin.com to purchase masks. Thank you to Forrest James and Fred Giannelli for providing music for this episode.

A blue printed banner sign that says "Stay well. Stay inspired" stands in green grass.

If you have comments or story ideas or if you have a story to share about your inspiration during this health crisis, write to us at pemcast@pem.org. Keep track of PEM’s re-opening on pem.org and pem.org/safety. Go HERE to listen to more episodes of the PEMcast.