For this month’s featured textile museum, we travel to the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida, to visit the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts, the only textiles center in the state.
I love that a first-rate textile collection lives at a technology institute. Sometimes, technology gets a bad rap, particularly in the realm of handmade devotees. But when you have a visionary like the late Ruth Funk guiding the way, magic happens, science intersects with art, and we are invited to explore both the technical and cultural significance of textiles.
Ruth Funk—artist, designer, teacher, author—was passionate about world textiles. Maybe because of her weaving and dyeing knowledge or maybe because of her extensive travel throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. Her generous gift to the Florida Institute of Technology for a new gallery and exhibition space that opened in 2009, was built to educate students and the public about the value of textiles and their contribution to society as a whole.
In addition to her substantial financial gifts, Ruth Funk also donated an extensive textile collection in 2005. Over the last decade other generous textile lovers have made further donations to enhance the collection. You will discover over 1,550 objects, including traditional textiles—everything from Japanese silk kimonos and ikat jackets from Uzbekistan to zulu headdress from South Africa. You’ll also find such treasures as a 1670s sampler from England worked in colored silks and other European and North American embroidery and samplers from the 16th through the 20th centuries. Embroidery, quilts, and needlework from the 18th through the early-20th centuries share the stage with contemporary wearable art and fiber arts—many made by Ruth Funk herself.
The Ruth Funk Center preserves and displays an international collection of textiles through rotating public exhibitions, educational programs, and lectures. Currently on view is Traditional Arts of the Bedouin an exhibition that includes handwoven and elaborately embroidered textiles among other remarkable handiwork. The upcoming exhibition, Flora and Fiber, opens in May and is curated from the Center’s own collection. It will explore the botanical sources, application, and iconography in textiles from three continents and across time.
You’ll find a beautiful and diverse collection at the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts—a friendly blend of tech and textile.
**All photos courtesy of the Ruth Funk Center for Texile Arts.