The Will to Adorn

The Project

What Now, What Next?

Since its launch in 2010, the Will to Adorn project has developed significantly. Project partners have documented and interviewed exemplars, artisans, and members of communities of style, and a beta version of the research protocol site continues to be refined. The project has been professionally recognized through research awards and program support by Cooper-Hewitt National Design Center, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Smithsonian Youth Access Program, the Smithsonian Scholarly Studies Program, the Center for Craft and Creativity, and Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. Team members have presented their work at conferences all over the United States and internationally, including South Africa.

The Will to Adorn: African American Diversity, Style, and Identity was a major highlight of the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival program and featured over eighty participants. Since then, the project team continues to deepen their research, expand partnerships, and work to develop ongoing youth education programs, exhibits, and a major publication.

An online conference showcasing the work of the Will to Adorn Youth Access program was held in December 2013; watch it online.

Explore some of the project’s themes through a session—“What Does Clothing Communicate?”—that was part of an online conference presented in 2011 by the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies.

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Januwa Moja, an artist based in Washington, D.C., participates in a lively exchange with Al Haynes, Yemaya Jones, and other U.S. Virgin Islands-based artists, researchers, and exemplars of style about dress and identity on the island of St. Croix. This discussion was organized as part of the Will to Adorn project. Photo by Sally Van de Water, courtesy Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation

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Diana N’Diaye interviews a woman at the Alfred Street Baptist Church Runway Fashion show, May 12, 2012. Photo by Sharon Farmer, courtesy of National Museum of African American History and Culture