The Mad Hatters of Mamaroneck Avenue

Some 10 years ago, on a visit to Milwaukee, I was charmed by a small exhibition of hats that African American women wore to church. Each hat was more unusual than the next. I came home inspired to do something similar at ArtsWestchester. The staff was indulgent, but not exactly charged up. Time passed. The hat show languished.  Then, the Alexander McQueen exhibition  happened at the Met. Hats appeared on runway models. “Hatitude” was all around us. The hat show seemed more relevant than ever. Judith Schwartz,  board member extraordinaire, NYU art professor and a milliner in her own right; began toting in hats from her own collection. Trying on hats became lunchtime fashion moments, turning the staff at ArtsWestchester into mad hatters. Folklorist Tom Van Buren, our expert on customs and traditions, began reaching out for feathered headpieces worn in ethnic dances. He and Asafo Adjei, our carpentry wizard, built dozens of  hat stands, which look like an army of little soldiers in our gallery. Kathleen Reckling, our gallery director and contemporary art chronicler, became forever smitten with couture hats and promptly took charge of the show’s “wow” factor. In the end, the result of all this frenzy brought together 200 hats from far and wide and more than 50 milliners in an exhibition called “Hatitude”. It’s not the discreet little hat exhibit that I had pondered ten years ago.  It’s an extravaganza elevating head wear beyond my wildest dreams and yours. It’s a must see.

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