Connected \\ June 30, 2020

PEMcast Episode 018: Alterations

Creativity and crisis are no strangers. In the ‘90s, artist Nick Cave responded to the police beating of Rodney King by building a suit made of sticks that would act as protective armor.

Nick Cave dressing someone in a soundsuit

Nick Cave with one of his Soundsuits at PEM in 2013. Photo by Allison White/PEM.

Later, when the Boston Marathon bombing occurred in 2013, Cave’s Soundsuits again saved the day at PEM when nearly 1,000 people gathered in the museum, feeling safe as they danced alongside the colorful pom pom-looking creations.

Soundsuits at PEM after-hours party in 2013

Soundsuits at PEM after-hours party in 2013. Photo by Kanty Tarantola/PEM.

Now as the Massachusetts stay-at-home order loosens from a months-long health crisis, PEM is looking toward reopening.

Instagram shot of the museum entrance and comments

Once again, we will open our doors and welcome the public during a time of crisis to provide uplift and inspiration. We are also looking at creative ways to protect ourselves. This time, with face coverings.

Petra Slinkard, PEM’s Nancy B. Putnam Curator of Fashion and Textiles, in a red mask.

Petra Slinkard, PEM’s Nancy B. Putnam Curator of Fashion and Textiles, in her comfortable running mask. Courtesy image.

In this episode of the PEMcast, Chip and I speak with two PEM curators, Petra Slinkard and Paula Richter, as we examine the role of unsung heroes — the home sewers who have turned up throughout history to help in times of crisis.

Paula Richter, PEM Curator for Exhibitions and Research., wearing a mask.

Paula Richter, PEM Curator for Exhibitions and Research. Courtesy image.

We then chat with Boston-based designer and Season 15 winner of Project Runway, Erin Robertson, about her mask-making efforts and what the future of fashion may be, thanks to the pandemic. Here’s a hint: day pajamas!

Erin Robertson wearing a mask, instagram shot

Before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, PEM’s Museum Shop merchandise director Victor Oliveira was thinking about how climate change would change retail and fashion. He worked to develop products to protect against harmful UV rays. One of his creations was a prototype for a new UV-resistant parasol. But then the virus struck and sent him in an entirely new direction.

In our Shop, you can find masks made of traditional Indian materials and masks designed by Carla Fernández, one of the designers in PEM’s upcoming exhibition Made It: The Women Who Revolutionized Fashion, opening in November.

Carla Fernández and Pedro Reyes wearing masks

Carla Fernández and Pedro Reyes collaborated on this mask that features the 68 spoken languages of Mexico. Courtesy photo.

Thank you to Petra Slinkard, Paula Richter, Trevor Smith and Erin Robertson. Follow Erin on Instagram @an_erin, and visit to purchase masks. Thank you to Forrest James and Fred Giannelli for providing music for this episode.

A blue printed banner sign that says "Stay well. Stay inspired" stands in green grass.

Photo by Paige Besse/PEM

PEM re-opens to the public July 18 and will be open Thursdays through Sundays from 10 am to 5 pm. Purchase tickets at or by calling 978-542-1511. The health and safety of PEM’s staff and visitors is our highest priority. Timed tickets will ensure that occupancy levels remain low—a perk for museum goers who enjoy quiet galleries—while enhanced sanitation measures and environmental health protocols will make you feel confident and safe during your visit. Complete details may be found at: Go HERE to listen to more episodes of the PEMcast.

TOP IMAGE: Photo by Paige Besse/PEM

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