James to retire after 19 years in textiles, merchandising and fashion design

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James to retire after 19 years in textiles, merchandising and fashion design

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David Kostelnik
Michael James

A retirement reception for Michael James, chair of the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design, will be 2:30 to 4 p.m. Dec. 16 on the second floor of the Human Sciences Building, formerly the Home Economics Building.

The reception is free and open to the public. Informal remarks are scheduled for 3:15 p.m.

James joined the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 2000, serving as a senior lecturer before becoming the Ardis James Professor of Textiles, Clothing and Design. Previously, James worked as an independent visual artist for 25 years in his home state of Massachusetts. His relocation to Nebraska in conjunction with the creation of the International Quilt Museum brought professional and cultural changes.

“The biggest adjustment was figuring out how to navigate academia, what it was all about then, more than a quarter-century after I’d last experienced it as a graduate student,” James said. “I have to admit it was somewhat convulsive at first, but it came to be a very good fit.”

In 2005, James assumed department chair duties. Under his leadership, faculty and staff successfully pursued numerous initiatives, including creating the Bio-Fiber Development Laboratory, the Mary Mitchell Fashion Studio, a multi-purpose Design Studio, the Kathryn Eriksen Lohr Merchandising Research and Business Development Laboratory, the Body Scanning Laboratory, and Surface Design studios.

James also worked with faculty and staff on the expansion of the International Quilt Museum in 2008.

“I think one of my proudest achievements is the group of new tenure-leading faculty that we’ve hired these last five years,” James said. “They are enterprising and very smart out-of-the-box thinkers, and I move on knowing that the department and its future are in very capable hands.”

James was the recipient of numerous accolades while on campus. In 2001, he was named a fellow of the American Craft Council; in 2015, the James Renwick Alliance, a support group of the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, honored him with the Master of the Medium Award in Textiles for lifetime achievement. He received the Governor’s Arts Award as Visual Artist of the Year from the Nebraska Arts Council in 2008 and the Lincoln Arts Council’s Mayor’s Arts Award for Artistic Achievement in 2003. In 2009, James received the NU system’s Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award, and in 2016, he earned the Distinguished Research and Creative Career Award from the College of Education and Human Sciences.

James’s work is featured in the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, as well as in the collections of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City; Museum of Fine Arts Boston; Newark Museum; Indianapolis Art Museum; Racine Art Museum; Museum of Nebraska Art; and the International Quilt Museum.

Those interested in acknowledging James’s service may make a donation to the Judith Dionne James Graduate Fellowship Fund at the University of Nebraska Foundation. Learn more about the fund.

Yiqi Yang, Charles Bessey Professor of textiles, merchandising and fashion design, has been selected to serve as interim chair beginning Jan. 1.