Kleibacker: New York Designer to Ohio Curator

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Press Release wrote The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery Presents a Unique Fashion-Focused Retrospective

The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery presents Kleibacker: New York Designer to Ohio Curator from May 8 through July 6, 2008.

A retrospective of curatorial and design work by nationally recognized fashion icon Charles Kleibacker, this exhibition brings together original garments, photography, illustration and memorabilia to examine Kleibacker’s long career and his contribution to the worlds of clothing design and fine art.

Before there was Project Runway, Kleibacker was taking Ohioans behind the scenes for an up-close look at the intricate world of fashion design. Over the course of two decades, he produced 11 exhibitions that informed audiences about the expert craftsmanship that goes into engineering fine clothes. He also brought attention to the many ways in which other art forms—illustration, photography and film—are used to bring clothing design into the public consciousness.

Born in Cullman, Alabama, Kleibacker earned a degree in journalism and worked as a newspaper reporter before pursuing graduate studies in retailing at New York University. A job as an assistant to the entertainer Hildegarde took him to Paris for six months in the late 1940s and introduced him to the world of couture. Determined to become a designer himself, he employed an atelier head to teach him the basics of understanding fabrics, draping and design. By 1960, he opened his KLEIBACKER studio in New York City. In 1963, he moved from a one room studio into a seven-room suite on West 73rd Street, which the KLEIBACKER label occupied until 1983.

Kleibacker first came to Columbus in 1984 as a visiting professor in the Department of Textiles and Clothing at The Ohio State University, where a year later he became designer-in-residence. Kleibacker remained at Ohio State until 1995, where his primary responsibility was to build a collection of historical clothing for the university.

As the collection grew, Kleibacker sought opportunities to raise the collection’s profile in the Columbus community and soon discovered that the best way to do this was to create exhibitions. He became a curator, developing exhibition projects both on the Ohio State campus and at other Ohio institutions to showcase the collection’s resources along with works from private and public lenders.

Kleibacker: New York Designer to Ohio Curator will include designs and memorabilia from Kleibacker’s more than 20 years as a designer in New York, as well as a comprehensive overview of the 11 fashion-focused exhibitions he curated. In addition to original garments, fashion illustration and photography this exhibition features photo documentation of scenes from the original installations of Kleibacker’s exhibitions.

Kleibacker: New York Designer to Ohio Curator opens May 8 with an exhibition tour with Charles Kleibacker from 5 – 6 p.m. and a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Kleibacker will return to the gallery May 16 to lead another tour of the exhibition from noon to 1 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.

The gallery will host a family workshop, June 8, 2-4 p.m. in the Capitol Theatre lobby on the third floor of the Riffe Center. Riffe Gallery staff will help children ages 6 – 17 design and construct an original fashion accessory. Participants will explore pattern planning, execute the design in felt and embellish it with various materials. Registration is required as space is limited, and all children must be accompanied by a registered adult. Registration begins April 17 and ends May 19. Register online at

The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery is located in the Vern Riffe Center for Government and the Arts, 77 S. High St., Columbus, OH.

Admission is free. Gallery hours are Tuesday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday 12-8 p.m. and Sunday 12-4 p.m. The gallery is closed on Monday and state holidays.

Visit or phone 614/644-9624 for more information.

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