Old jazz tunes now fill Kirkwood Hall Gallery where the School of Art, Architecture + Design presents “Celebrating a Jazz Icon: 100 Years of Ella Fitzgerald Exhibits and Events.” This exhibit honors the famed African-American singer from noon to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays through May 4.
The exhibition features three dresses, a wig, sunglasses and more from the SOAAD’s Sage Fashion Collection. The Sage Collection has over 25,000 objects of museum-quality pieces which span more than 250 years, according to its website.
“The Sage Collection loves the opportunity to show off our Ella Fitzgerald pieces and pay tribute to this American icon,” said Kelly Richardson, curator of the Sage Collection, in an email.
The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation provided sheet music, albums, records, CDs and books for display. The exhibit also features images from the Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University and pop-up floor banners provided by the Great American Songbook Foundation in Carmel, Indiana.
The exhibition is part of a year-long celebration of Fitzgerald’s work and life. The celebration included a lecture with Fran Morris Rosman, director of the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation on March 19.
That same day, the celebration ended with a screening of “St. Louis Blues,” one of four films Fitzgerald appeared in, at the IU Cinema. A live performance by jazz musician Monika Herzig, a senior lecturer at the School of Environmental and Public Policy, and jazz vocalist Janiece Jaffe preceded the film.
“This film features a short on-screen performance by Ella Fitzgerald, and is a remarkable film made for black audiences with a black cast that includes such awesome performers such as Nat King Cole and Eartha Kitt,” Richardson said in an email.
Richardson said Fran Morris Rosman, the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation's executive director came to IU last year and discussed honoring Fitzgerald with a small exhibit, a lecture and more.
Eventually, the celebration grew to include the film screening and live performance.
Richardson said every care was taken in mounting the two beaded Don Loper dresses and the black dress which may inspired Fitzgerald’s early hit, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.”
“It’s actually a pretty complex and painstaking process," Richardson said in an email. "It’s very important that these unique pieces are not damaged by the fitting process or by bring on exhibition."