The Tyler Museum of Art’s annual fall party on Saturday gave about 250 people the opportunity to visit famous decorator and costume designer Winn Morton, as well as a preview of an exhibit of Morton’s art.
Morton was the main attraction and guest of honor at the event, presented as the “Little Black Dress Goes To Rose Festival,” which raised funds for the museum’s exhibits and programs. Tickets were $ 125 for museum members and $ 150 for non-members.
The theme was appropriate since for 32 years Morton designed costumes and sets for the Texas Rose Festival, which will mark its 80th anniversary later this month, said Jon Perry, the museum’s communications and membership coordinator.
Morton greeted and hugged people as they arrived for the indoor and outdoor party which included a buffet, drinks, dancing, singer Nancy Fisher and music from a Vicho Vincencio orchestra combo playing for the coronation of the rose festival.
It was practically a family reunion of sorts, as many attendees already knew Morton, guest curator Bob Cook said.
There was also a silent auction. Items sold at auction included trips to New York and Belize, an original sketch of Morton and a cocktail party.
Tents, a stage and a dance floor have been set up on the museum’s lawn and parking lot. The tables were decorated with headdresses that Morton designed over the years for rose festivals.
Inside, attendees could walk through a museum exhibit open to the public at 1 p.m. today, titled “Winn Morton: Festivals, Pageants and Follies”.
The exhibit consists of around 250 sketches, costumes and props representing a sample of Morton’s diverse career spanning six decades in theater, television, exhibitions, circuses, trade shows and social events. The majority of the exhibits are from Morton’s personal archives, Perry said.
Morton, 84, still works from his home in Lancaster, and one of the first views in the exhibit is his office and a scene recreating his studio.
The main purpose of the exhibit is to educate people about what Morton did before partnering with Tyler’s Texas Rose Festival, Cook said.
Morton designs beautiful costumes for 40 girls and the crowning decor for the Rose Festival. In the past, he has also designed the Queen’s Ball and Queen’s Tea.
The exhibit provides insight into the development and evolution of Morton’s career.
Participants saw a painting Morton made when he was 9 when he started taking art classes at the Dallas Museum of Art and a circus painting he painted when he was 16 years.
He studied art at the Ringling School of Art in Florida because he loved animals and wanted to be near the Ringling Brothers Circus which wintered there, Cook said.
Morton eventually moved to New York City, where he enrolled in Parsons School of Design, and got involved in the early days of television by designing costumes for Arthur Godfrey’s show, The Ed Sullivan Show, Studio One, Johnny Cash and other shows.
From there, he traveled to the now defunct Roxy Theater, a sister theater to Radio City Music Hall, where he designed costumes for ice shows for three years.
Morton then went to Guy Lombardo’s Jones Beach Theater, a summer theater on Long Island, designing costumes for Broadway shows and for Guy Lombardo shows.
Morton worked for the Six Flags theme parks for many years. Six Flags produces 15 to 20 different shows per year with an average of 50 to 75 costumes per show, according to a press release.
Morton also designed costumes for the State Fair of Texas Exposition, the New York World’s Fair in 1964, and ice shows.
Morton designed the setting for President George W. Bush’s campaign dinner.
At one point Morton was lead designer for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus with a million dollar budget for designing and sketching human and animal costumes.
Morton has worked as a freelance artist since 1960 and returned to Texas in 1977.
The Morton exhibition will run until December 1. Free entry. Another gallery in the museum exhibits Japanese art deco from 1920 to 1945, until October 20. Admission is $ 5 for adults, $ 3 for seniors and students, and free for museum members, children under 12, and students of Tyler Junior College with valid ID.