Dr. Elka Stevens, an Associate Professor of visual culture and studio art, serves as Fashion Design program coordinator and textiles collection curator in Howard University’s Art Department. As an interdisciplinary scholar and artist, Elka uses textiles and clothing as a lens of analysis, inspiration, and media for her scholarship. Current research topics include media and design pedagogy, black designers, and Zoom® and impression management. Current fiber and digital creative works explore identity, sustainability, and social justice. Stevens teaches design, textiles, international trade, visual culture, and consumer behavior courses. Three decades of educational, design, retail, media, collections, and industry experience – plus international travel – inform her teaching, research, and studio practice. Elka received her PhD from the University of Minnesota and maintains membership in various service and professional organizations. Dr. Stevens has also been a 2019-20 Council of American Overseas Research Centers – Center American Institute of Indian Studies (CAORC – AIIS) fellow, a 2021 Summer Institute for Israel Studies at Brandeis University fellow, and Artist-in-Residence: Creative Practice in Critical Race Studies in the Department of Art at Michigan State University for the 2021-22 academic term. In March 2023, Elka became the inaugural Howard University Affiliated Faculty at the American Academy in Rome in Rome Italy, where she will be researching a new body of work based on global trajectories of black women artists.
Dr. Stevens recently contributed to two televised productions about fashion and art which aired during Black History Month.
Dr. Stevens contributed to the first episode of new BET's series,
Black + Iconic,
a four-part, eight-hour documentary film series from Emmy Award©-winning Executive Producer Stanley Nelson and Firelight Films,
directed by Lynne Robinson, and hosted by Billy Porter.
Click here to view Season 1, Episode 1!
With Howard University's Department of Art colleagues, art historian, Dr. Melanee Harvey, and visual artist, Prof. Ron Akili Anderson,
Dr. Stevens speaks about artist, educator, pioneer, advocate, and Howard alum, Alma Thomas,
and creating pieces for the exhibition, "Alma Thomas: Everything is Beautiful" in
WETA Arts February 2023: Alma Thomas,
produced by Judy Meschel and hosted by Felicia Curry.
Click to view here!
The MSU Department of Art, Art History, and Design at The Union Art Gallery on Michigan State Universities' Campus for 38.8%: Visualizing Racial Identity in Search of Selfhood and Others, featuring the work of 2021-2022 Artist-in-Residence: Critical Race Studies, Dr. Elka Stevens. This exhibition was on view Monday, April 25 – Friday, June 10, 2022. In 38.8%, artist and designer Elka Stevens visually interrogated aspects of race, ethnicity, nationality, genetics, and their presentation as part of identity. Although many aspects of identity are out of people’s control and largely unseen, clothing allows individuals and groups to communicate messages about themselves, their cultures, activities, events, locations, and employment. Using textiles and clothing as a primary vehicle to present ideas about race, Stevens presented a mini-collection of stylized, wearable garments for women and selected artifacts that engage both the viewer and wearer in a dialogue about race and identity that explores how we wear our identities. Featured garments and accessories included dresses, a skirt, and a wrap. A quilt and blanket also narrated the social and physical attributes of race. The designs incorporated sewing techniques, such as embroidery, quilting, and applique. Surface design techniques incorporated aspects of genealogy research into the collection. Archival research and imagery also contributed to the works, through motifs that include a family charts document and present wearable family histories. Color, along with other elements of design and their guiding principles, directed attention to an articulated genetic makeup. In sum, 38.8% was a re-presentation of a lived experience through worn and displayed objects.
For more details about the work, read a new article about the exhibition here.
Click here to learn more about the exhibition.
Alma Thomas' Dresses
Recreated for Alma Thomas: Everything is Beautiful Exhibition (2021-2022)
Alma W. Thomas (1891-1978) is an African American abstractionist painter and was the first graduate of Howard University’s Department of Art in 1924. Alma Thomas: Everything is Beautiful, a touring exhibition, features a comprehensive overview of Alma's work, including over 100 pieces. Also featured are recreations of the day dress or smock in which she often painted and the gown Alma wore to Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition opening in 1972. Alma Thomas: Everything is Beautiful was at the Frist Art Museum in Nashville, Tennessee. It can be viewed online here. The last venue was The Columbus Museum in Columbus, Georgia.
The recreated day dress fabric (red and white checkerboard) is available for purchase. Click here. All proceeds from the sale of this fabric and products available on Spoonflower.com will be donated to Howard University's Alma Thomas Endowment Scholarship Fund. If you would like to make a donation directly, please click here. You may also purchase specially-designed items featuring the checkerboard pattern from the Chrysler Museum Gift Shop, which is also donating a portion of proceeds to the Alma Thomas Endowment Scholarship Fund at Howard University. Click here to see the products which feature the design. Finally, if you would like to make your own Alma Thomas Day Dress, the pattern is forthcoming!
All proceeds from its sale will be donated to the Alma Thomas Endowment Scholarship Fund. Email email@example.com to be notified when the pattern is available.
Junior Faculty Writing and Creative Works Summer Academy Quilts
From 2016 to 2019, the Office of Faculty Development in the Office of the Provost at Howard University with the generous support of The Andrew Mellon Foundation, sponsors the Junior Faculty Writing & Creative Works Summer Academy to support untenured, full-time faculty produce scholarly publications and/or creative works. Each year to commemorate the junior faculty who complete the program and thier mentors, I have been comissioned to create a quilt. To date, in excess of 130 junior faculty, 35 senior scholars, and 6 visiting faculty scholars have participated in the Summer Academy. All photographs by the srtist.
Hanging on the first floor of Founder's Library near the entrance/exit on the upper quadrangle on the campus of Howard University.
Hanging on the first floor of Howard University's Interdisciplinary Research Building (HU-IRB) on Georgia Avenue, NW between Bryant and W Streets.
Hanging on the first floor of the Louis Stokes Health Sciences Library at Howard University located at 501 W Street, NW.
To be hung in Burr Gymnasiom on the campus of Howard University.
In progress. Location to be determined.
In progress. Location to be determined.
...[T]his dressy-casual fusion will be heralded by innovations in...performance textiles...due to the growing need for material that presents a polished image while remaining [breathable} and comfortable... (Referencing post-COVID clothing trends)
"D.C. Designers React to Post-Pandemic Fashion Trends",District Fray, July 2021in
...[Purple is] a colour of significance in the black community - one tied to the Christian experience as well. (Referencing the Vice President Kamala Harris' inaugural attire)
"Inauguration Fashion: Purple, Pearls, and Mittens",BBC News, January 2021in