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Students showcase Dali-inspired wearable art designs

Ashley Morales

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In addition to Feb. 24’s runway and awards show at Gibbs High School, students in The Dali Museum’s fashion program had the option to participate in a “Guerrilla Fashion Show” at the museum Feb. 1. Photos provided.

Students from The Dalí Museum’s Fashion Design program took center stage at Gibbs High School Feb. 24, modeling an array of wearable art designs inspired by the theme “Eleg-ants: Designs from Dalí’s Animal Kingdom.”

The runway event, which doubled as an awards show, provided a platform for 24 up-and-coming student designers from 14 schools across Tampa Bay to exhibit their talents and celebrate their imaginative interpretations of Salvador Dalí’s iconic artworks. The show marked the culmination of the students’ 14-week Fashion Design program at The Dali.

Students who take part in The Dali Museum’s free fashion design program learn the fundamentals of design, construction and runway presentation. At the end of the semester, industry leaders judge the student’s designs and award prizes in several categories related to sustainability, wearability and more.

According to The Dali’s website, the museum’s free fashion design program, “allows artistically inclined high school students from the Tampa Bay area to learn the fundamentals of design, construction and runway presentation from experienced artists and designers. Through nontraditional materials, students are invited to think creatively to produce wearable works of art that translate from sketch to runway.”

The extracurricular program meets weekly at Pinellas County Center for the Arts (PCCA), the four-year program at Gibbs High School that allows students to choose a central area of study in dance, music, theater or visual art. A Dali Museum spokesperson told the Catalyst the fashion program has been running for seven years, and students are chosen to participate after submitting a writing sample, portfolio of their artwork and letters of recommendation.

“Salvador Dalí explored numerous artistic mediums throughout his lifetime, including fashion collaborations with Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel. It’s truly amazing to see how these students from all over the Tampa Bay area are inspired by Dalí’s work,” said Sumaya Ayad, School Programs Manager at The Dalí, in a prepared statement. “Meeting weekly, they learn valuable skills, form friendships and collaborate to create their own wearable art while learning about the fundamentals of design.”

Kate Evans, a senior at PCCA, took part in this year’s program and won “Most Wearable” for her design at last Saturday’s show. She said the expert speakers and field trips organized by The Dali Museum helped her get inspired by this year’s program theme, which challenged students to create concepts that draw from the many animals, insects and sea creatures in Dalí’s artwork.

“They planned all of these fun educational trips out, like to Fanatics and a nature preserve, and then they’d talk to us to intertwine with the theme, which was really cool,” Kate said. “It really added something special to it. It wasn’t just, ‘Make a dress.’ You get to learn about the artists and see how everything works, their whole process.”

Kate Evans, a senior at Pinellas County Center for the Arts, modeled her design, which won “Most Wearable.”

This year’s program started in September 2023, and included runway coaching and a writing component, teaching students how to craft artist statements about their work. Evans, who plans to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design this fall and hopes to land a future career in the fashion industry, said she appreciated learning from local creatives and the networking opportunities provided by The Dali’s fashion design program.

“I did learn a lot of new skills, but I also really enjoyed all the people that I got to meet who are working in the industry currently who would come and talk to us, and the people within the program,” Kate said. “It was really cool, making so many new friends with the same interests as me and seeing all of these creative minds working together. I didn’t expect to create so many new connections.”

The winning designs from the runway event at Gibbs High School will be displayed at Florida CraftArt, at 501 Central Ave., Feb. 28 through March 17.

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