- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 23, 2005

Perhaps only at a Textile Museum gala would patrons and guests applaud the flower arrangements as well as the evening’s honoree.

Supporters of that institution’s formally-titled Tribute Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Thursday are inclined by nature to be appreciative of good aesthetics in any form. So cheering dramatically-arranged orchid displays went right along with toasts of port (not champagne) to New York-based textile designer and collector Jack Lenor Larsen, recipient of the newly-created George Hewitt Myers Award given in honor of the museum’s founder.

More surprising was the fact that the occasion was the museum’s first-ever fundraising gala in its 80-year history. In many Washingtonians’ minds, it is “the little museum that could” — one of the capital’s often overlooked treasures suffering from an out-of-the-way location and a cramped physical space. Mr. Larsen, an honorary trustee known worldwide for his signature fabrics, called it “the only real textile museum in the Americas.”

“It’s a heroically important organization,” said trustee Bevis Longstreth, author of a novel called “The Spindle and Bow” (“about the oldest pile rug in the world”), who came from New York for the dinner. Joan Mondale, a potter and wife of former Vice President Walter Mondale, flew in from Minneapolis where she has established that city’s Textile Center. “Textiles and clay work together,” she noted.

Famed furniture designer Sam Maloof, who flew in from Los Angeles, recalled when he traveled 30 years ago to Afghanistan with Mr. Larsen. (Their American hostess at the time, who was present Thursday, reacquainted herself with both men.) “I made a chair for his house,” the artfully attired craftsman volunteered.

An Asian theme rightly dominated — heralding the museum’s latest exhibit on “Rozome Masters of Japan” and an accompanying weekend symposium on “Japanese Style and the Culture of Cloth.”

“I’m the new guy in town,” announced the museum’s director, Daniel Walker, who arrived in May from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he headed the Islamic Art Department. That definitely was no surprise to the audience, many of whom spoke of him as the embodiment of new vigor and vision at the historic institution on S Street Northwest.

— Ann Geracimos

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