Peruvian Textile Exhibit Opens at Colorado's Avenir Museum

Vibrant colors and intricate patterns abound at Colorado State University's Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising exhibit, "Weaving Lives: Transforming Textile Traditions in the Peruvian Highlands." Open Thursday, Feb. 21 through Aug. 2, the show will feature hand-woven and hand-knit pieces both modern -- hats and belts -- and traditional, like tapestries, ponchos, and mantas, more commonly known as shawls. All of the pieces will be for sale.

"They're not museum objects," said Megan Osborne, collections manager for the Avenir Museum. "They're traditional textiles."

She describes the "keystone" of the show as four mannequins dressed in traditional attire: a man and woman in everyday clothing and a man and woman in wedding clothing. While each outfit is colorful, Osborne calls the bride the "most spectacular" with her intricately embroidered, floral patterned and bright green, purple, pink, yellow and orange attire.

She and her groom "truly look like rainbows," Osborne said.

Not only is the show a collection of art, but it also provides a chance to see a dying tradition. Because Peru's younger generations have lost interest in the traditional art form, new efforts are being made to revitalize and modernize the historical designs.

The exhibit itself is a storyline through the full creative process, Osborne explains.

"The show will take you through the acquisition of this llama and alpaca wool, how that's acquired, naturally dyed, spun, and after the spinning process, the two different types of production: knitting and weaving," she said. "That's on one side (of the museum), and then on the other side, you see the finished products."

The Avenir Museum presents this exhibit in collaboration with the Center for Traditional Textiles, located in Cusco, Peru.

"As the world becomes more of a global place, it's not that (those traditional practices) become less important, but the center is trying to preserve the importance of these traditional designs while also trying to produce products that appeal to a Western market," Osborne said.

Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez, who is a guest co-curator for the show, began the center as a way to establish local weaving associations throughout the Andean highlands to teach and preserve traditions of handmade textiles. She also aims to promote economic and community development.

"(They're) trying to take these traditional techniques and broaden their scope so that they can use these traditions to make a living for themselves," Osborne said. "It becomes not just a family to family event, but they're producing these textiles and sending them out in the world."

In addition to the exhibit, the Avenir Museum will host a series of workshops and lectures, including the customary Third Thursday Lecture Series. All lectures are free and open to the public and begin at 7 p.m. in Room 136 of the University Center for the Arts Annex, 216 E. Lake St.


To learn more about Avenir Museum and the exhibit, please visit their website at