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Oscar winner Ruth E. Carter brought costume collection to Pittsburgh last year |

Oscar winner Ruth E. Carter brought costume collection to Pittsburgh last year

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
Courtesy of Ruth E. Carter
FashionAFRICANA founder Demeatria Boccella, left, with costume designer Ruth E. Carter, who made history when she became the first African American woman to win the Academy Award for Costume Design on Sunday for the film “Black Panther.” Her collection was featured in an exhibit at the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District in August.

Ruth E. Carter made history by becoming the first African American woman to win an Oscar for costume design.

There was talk of Carter’s immense talent in August when she visited Pittsburgh to introduce part of her vast collection at the Senator John Heinz History Center—the first museum to showcase her work.

The 75 pieces reflected the movies “Malcolm X,” “Selma,” “The Butler,” “Roots,” “Armistad,” “Do the Right Thing,” and “Black Panther.” She won the Oscar for “Black Panther.”

“Wow, I got it,” said Carter Sundaym’” she said. “This has been a long time coming. Spike Lee, thank you for my start. I hope this makes you proud.”

History center president and CEO Andy Masich took to twitter to applaud Carter, saying “The Heinz History Center was proud to be the first museum to showcase Ruth E. Carter’s amazing costume design work. Congrats Ruth, on this much-deserved Oscar honor for Black Panther!”

The exhibit was extremely popular in Pittsburgh, said Brady Smith, director of marketing at the history center. Visitors marveled at Carter’s beautiful costumes on display, but they also received an in-depth look at her creative process and the hard work that went into designing costumes for these epic films.

“Everyone here at the Heinz History Center is thrilled that Ruth Carter is finally an Academy Award winner – it’s so well-deserved and long overdue,” said Brady, director of marketing at the history center. “We were truly honored to be the world premiere venue for the ‘Heroes & Sheroes: The Art & Influence of Ruth E. Carter on Black Cinema’ exhibition last year. Our visitors were inspired by the powerful African American culture showcased through Ruth’s work. Along with being a legendary artist, Ruth is a great person, and we couldn’t be happier for her.”

This history center collaborated with FashionAFRICANA t0 bring the exhibit to Pittsburgh. FashionAFRICANA was established in 2001 by Hazelwood native Demeatria Boccella, who currently lives in Squirrel Hill.

Boccella met Carter through mutual friend Bill Nunn, an actor and Pittsburgh native. Boccella told the Tribune-Review in August that the exhibit is “an opportunity to celebrate Ruth Carter and for people to hopefully have a great appreciation of her work and her contribution to black cinema.”

Boccella, who said her phone was blowing up with messages, said Monday she texted Carter, but hadn’t received a response, because Carter most likely was pretty busy.

“The reason I really wanted to bring Ruth to Pittsburgh and a do a retrospective of her work was that she is an example of an amazing, talented Black woman winning and making history—and inspiring a generation of young Black girls in the process.”

When Carter was in Pittsburgh to preview the exhibit, she said she wanted people to walk away from it knowing what a costume designer is.

“People often ask me if I sew or if I studied fashion,” Carter told the Tribune-Review. “We wear clothes every day, but we might not know what constitutes a costume. With our costumes for a movie we give people insight and knowledge about the layers and the process a costume designer goes through. We gather all our research and try to conceptualize it for the storytelling aspect of it. We have a responsibility to be accurate.”

“She is paving the way for a whole new generation and that was why I was so adamant about bring her here,” Boccella said.”I wanted to bring her because she is a highly accomplished woman of color. I am so excited about her as a person and I am excited about what this means to history and culture and how it will inspire our young people. She cares about the next generation. She is a bona fide celebrity.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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