In Honor of Charles Kleibacker

Normally at this time of year, the Museum is busy with preparations for the annual Kleibacker Film Festival. This year would have been the 9th annual festival celebrating excellence in fashion and design, and due to the pandemic we made the decision to cancel this program for the first time since its inception.

Charles Kleibacker, the festival’s namesake, made tremendous contributions to the worlds of art and fashion. Charles had an eye for excellence and a heart for people. Born in a small town in Alabama in 1921, Charles first learned about the retail world from a family-owned department store and cotton gin around the corner. After attending Notre Dame, then obtaining a graduate degree in retailing from NYU, Charles got his first break in the late 1940s with a job assisting Hildegarde, a glamorous American cabaret singer well known for the song “Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup.”

While touring in Paris, Hildegarde would be dressed at the House of Dior. Charles remarked on the experience “As a member of her entourage, I was welcomed to view the daily showing at three in the afternoon whenever I could get away from work. I went often! This was a turning point for me. The beauty of the Dior salons, the clothes, the models, and the whole atmosphere – I was mesmerized. Then and there I made up my mind – this is what I’ve always wanted to be, a designer of women’s clothing, clothing that has merit.”

After three months abroad, Charles returned to New York and got to work learning everything he could about the worlds of fabric, draping, and design. He spent the next several years working with well-known designers such as Antonio del Castillo of Lanvin and Nettie Rosenstein, known as the mother of the little black luncheon dress.

In 1960 Charles opened Kleibacker Studio in New York. Charles become famous and known as “the master of the bias cut.” His label sold well at Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, many specialty stores and to private clients, including First Ladies Pat Nixon, Lady Bird Johnson, and actress Diahann Carroll. 

“The dresses were sublime. These dresses were all about the feminine figure. You wore the dress. It moved with you. It was so carefully cut on the bias. It was like wearing nothing. The garments just floated.” Coco Hashim retired fashion executive for The Limited, John Wanamaker, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Henri Bendel, Bonwitt Teller (2009)

Charles came to The Ohio State University in the fall of 1984 for one quarter as a visiting professor in the Department of Textiles and Clothing, College of Home Economics (later Human Ecology). He later become designer-in-residence in 1985, with a goal to build a Historic Costume and Textiles Collection for the University. The collection started with 800 garments and would end with close to 8,000! Charles closed his studio in New York in 1986 and committed himself to the collection. Charles curated many exhibitions, threw flawless parties, inspired many, and made Columbus an entirely more elegant and fashionable place to live! Amongst Charles’ most exceptional exhibitions were Memorable Dress / Ohio Women in 1986 and Black & White: Dress from the 1920’s to Today in 1992.

In 2002, Charles was appointed as the adjunct curator of design at Columbus Museum of Art and in 2004 established a fund at the Museum called the Charles Kleibacker Endowed Fund for Excellence.  During his final exhibition in 2009, Class Act: Storied Women / Designers of Note, the Museum celebrated reaching the milestone of $500,000 in the fund. The fund honors Charles’ commitment to excellence and supports ongoing programs that address issues of art and culture, including those inspired by the world of design. After losing Charles in 2010, four of his dearest friends – Adam Burk, Cordelia Robinson, Virginia Stoltz, and John Wirchanski – assisted the Museum in managing the Kleibacker Fund and created a three-day fashion film festival that has become an annual favorite for the Museum. We look forward to sharing the festival with you again in 2021!

Learn more about Charles in this video series.

If you would like to contribute to the Charles Kleibacker Endowed Fund for Excellence, click here or email with questions.

Member Spotlight with Lauren Leahy

Photo credit: Megan Leigh Barnard

Photo credit: Megan Leigh Barnard

During this time of social distancing, we want to remind our members that we are all in this together. Throughout the museum closure we will be bringing you interviews with fellow members to share inspiration, thoughts on creative outlets, and to help stay connected.

Member Spotlight with Lauren Leahy
CMA Member since June 2018

You’ve been a member of CMA for a few years now. What first inspired you to become involved with the Museum?
A love for the arts has always been central in my life. When my family and I moved back to Columbus in 2017, the museum was a familiar place of comfort. I grew up coming to the museum as a child, taking classes, seeing exhibitions, and it’s where my initial love for art-history began. The museum has evolved so much, I was excited to have my own family be a part of its next chapter and for the museum to have an impact on their lives.

This year you served as an event chair for the family fundraising party CMA Comes Alive. What makes this event special to your family?
This has been such a fun event to be a part of, and to see the positive response from families in just the three years since its inception has been amazing! What I love about CMA Comes Alive is it is an easy introduction to the museum for children and adults. I meet people all the time that are either new to Columbus or have lived here their entire lives and have never visited. At this event, there is something for everyone and the funds help provide access to all in the greater Columbus community by supporting the museum’s “Free Sundays” campaign.

Favorite CMA Comes Alive moment.
It’s a tie between the always energetic performance by Transit Arts that my kids enjoy trying to recreate at home and seeing the many projects that come out of the studio – great creativity and so much hot glue!

During the stay at home order, a lot of us are finding creative outlets through new ways — like trying out new hobbies, exercising, or listening to music. What is keeping you inspired right now?
One of my biggest creative outlets is cooking. We’ve been tackling many culinary projects trying new recipes and wrapping them into broader discussions about cultures, where our food comes from/gardening and everything in between. I am lucky my family indulges me in this creative pursuit and share an interest in cooking!

How are you keeping your kids creative while social-distancing?
Like many, we are trying to spend time outside! So far, some of our favorite things have been doing nature scavenger hunts, kids-charades, and many rainy-day craft projects. The overly ambitious parent in me is attempting to pick up where my daughter’s art teacher left off and create some artist-specific projects – we’re planning a Jackson Pollock day with big canvases and drip paint – outside of course 😉 All in all, we’re trying to make the most of this unique time together.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to join the conversation.

For more information on joining the 2021 CMA Comes Alive planning committee, contact

-Betsy Meacham is CMA’s Special Projects & Campaign Officer.

Member Spotlight with Raymond Weaver

During this time of social distancing, we want to remind our members that we are all in this together. Throughout the museum closure we will be bringing you interviews with fellow members to share inspiration, thoughts on creative outlets, and to help stay connected. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to join the conversation!

Member Spotlight with Raymond Weaver
CMA Member since September 2019

Raymond Weaver

As a new member of CMA, tell us how you first became involved with the Museum.
As an artist, I have always tried my best to put my best foot forward and make my work shine. It was through our LGBTQ group from my job where I was invited to attend the “Art for Life” event. Shortly after that, I found myself as a frequent visitor and event volunteer, most recently serving as a member of the planning committee for Wonderball this past January.

How has Wonderball impacted you or why do you support Wonderball?
The reason why I support the “Wonderball” experience is that it is a timeless moment to showcase your self-expression. To be able to see all forms of artistry at this fabulous event is something that must be treasured. It isn’t just a ball for people to get dressed up to show who is wearing the latest trend, but one night in the entire year where you get to become someone else.

Favorite Wonderball moment.
My favorite moment of the event would have to be the red carpet experience. I was actually able to walk the red carpet and be interviewed about what my inspiration was for what I was wearing and how I was enjoying myself. It actually made me feel really secure in my creative space and that my self-expression was celebrated. For me, this moment allowed me to really enjoy the rest of the experience.

Do you have a creative outlet? If, yes then what?

My creative outlet would have to be my paintings. I have been a self-taught painter for the last 3 years and have even had the opportunity to paint at the CMA.  My work is an abstract art form that is usually inspired by nonbinary anatomy. And for those that are interested and seeing my work feel free to check it out @Sketcy_artist.0 on IG.

What are you doing to stay creative while social-distancing?
With everything that is happening with embracing this challenge of social distancing, I have actually been able to focus on my art. I am currently working on a pretty big project with the Resource Grant that I received from GCAC and hope to push out these paintings for my social platform and to the community.

Check out more photos from Wonderball 2020. For more information on joining the 2021 Wonderball planning committee, contact

-Betsy Meacham is CMA’s Special Projects & Campaign Officer.

Art in Bloom 2018 Designer Spotlight with Scott Robertson

Scott Robertson designing for Art In Bloom at Columbus Museum of Art

During Columbus Museum of Art’s biennial Art in Bloom, April 26-29, 2018, floral designers bring the galleries to life reinterpreting art through flowers. We sat down with floral designer Scott Robertson to talk music, flowers, fashion, and Monet’s garden.


As part of the April 27 program Symphony in Bloom, you’ll be creating arrangements accompanied by the Columbus Symphony. How does music inspire your design?
Music is very inspirational in my work. Sometimes when I listen to a beautifully arranged piece my creative visual imagination takes over and I imagine music as a movie or video. I create whole scenarios of sets, lighting, costumes, and of course flowers and gardens. I always hope my designs can evoke emotions in people as much as music, art, or movies…


How can people go about bringing a touch of Monet’s garden into their life?
There are many ways, but firstly call your local florist and talk to them about your vision and allow them to create something original for you, using the colors of a Monet painting. Treat yourself once a week or once a month to stunning fresh-cut flowers.

You could also start to plan your garden designs around the colors Monet would use in his paintings, and even some of the same variety of plants. If planned properly, your garden can give you three glorious seasons of Monet colors.

Another way that comes to mind, is choose a room in your home you would like to have for some serenity, and paint a wall a soothing shade of Monet blue. Add accessories in monochromatic color tones so you feel as if you were IN a Monet garden painting.


You’ve been successful in merging floral and fashion in the past. What suggestions do you have to help guests prepare their outfits for Fashion in Bloom?
For a fun event like this, I suggest COLOR COLOR COLOR! Use bright, saturated, monochromatic outfits so you stand out in the crowd, but also BECOME part of the art show!


What’s your favorite part of Art in Bloom?
My favorite part is no doubt watching people enjoy, explore, and experience each design by all of the phenomenal floral artists CMA has asked to be a part of such a wonderful show. I love to see how other florists have interpreted the artworks they’ve been paired with!


Can you give us a hint on what your floral installation may include?
Imagine an 8’ square metal structure with over 800 hanging glass test tubes….
And thank you to Dümmen Orange for partnering with me, and their dedication to the arts. Their plants and flowers bring joy to millions of people around the globe.


More about Robertson
Scott James George Robertson is an Ohio native who, since early childhood, has loved gardening, decorating, and art. Since then he has been designing with flowers and art for more than 25 years and has worked in Miami, New York City and now back to Cleveland where he started his own company STEMS FLEUR “The Flower Stems.” While in NYC Scott was privileged to work with Olivier Guigni for 5 years before opening his own design studio where he did work for Carolina Herrera, and other high-end fashion boutiques in Manhattan.

Back in Ohio he’s been designing for Columbus Fashion Week, Art in Bloom, The Cleveland Botanical Gardens Winter, Orchid and Spring shows, teaching classes, designing fun creative weddings, events and special projects.  


Join Scott Robertson at Art in Bloom April 26-29! Scott will be a featured installation designer, including wearable floral at Fashion in Bloom on Thursday, April 26 and will be presenting a unique floral demonstration inspired by the art of Claude Monet during Symphony with Monet on Friday, April 27. Click here for tickets and more information on both events. Space is limited.

Art in Bloom 2018 Designer Spotlight with Brian Coovert

Floral Designer Brian Coovert

During Columbus Museum of Art’s biennial Art in Bloom, April 26-29, 2018, floral designers bring the galleries to life reinterpretting art through flowers. We sat down with Brian Coovert CFD, Emc of Brian Coovert Floral Design to talk flowers, art, and how exactly you go about interpreting art masterpieces with flowers.

What was the moment when you knew you wanted to work in floral design?
I grew up in rural, southern Ohio and on a farm, so horticulture and nature have always been in my DNA. But it wasn’t until I was living in Charleston, SC that I really experienced floral design. At that time, I was working for a large department store, and we used fresh flowers for every trunk show, cosmetic launch, or party that we had. I became close friends with the florist that we used, and before I knew it, I was spending all of my time off in his tiny studio learning what I could. It wasn’t long before I quit my corporate job, and went to work for him. I started off washing buckets, processing flowers and sweeping the floor. I was a true apprentice. 

Art in Bloom is unique in that you use artwork to inspire your design. Can you tell us about your process of interpreting art with flowers?
I begin with emotion. What is the feeling the piece of art work gives me? What is the artist trying to tell me? Now, how can I interpret this through flowers and natural elements? Knowing the nomenclature of flowers and foliages is helpful. Flowers evoke different emotions and feelings, therefore, that must be kept in mind, and is helpful when interpreting a design. Color is the next most important aspect, and probably the easiest. People react to color differently, however it is the most crucial element when translating, and it is the easiest to understand. I then ask myself, “how can I do this differently than anyone else?” Whether that be through mechanics, design skills, materials, etc. I want to give the viewer an experience they have never had before.

What inspires you?
I find inspiration everywhere. In regular places like regular people, it could be architecture, fashion, magazines, interior design, etc. However, may main drawl is through Mother Nature. It could be the curve of a tree branch, the pattern of veins on a leaf, the natural erosion of a creek bed. Mother Nature is truly remarkable and makes no mistakes. We can all learn a great deal from her.

Brian Coovert Designs

What’s it like to do floral designs for movies?
It’s a fun and sometimes stressful experience, and really just depends on the movie or program. With regular TV, you are made aware of the size, shape, color and location of the floral arrangements needed and that’s pretty easy. Movies can be a bit more difficult. For example, on the set of “Cold Mountain” I was asked to re-create an English style High Tea. Everything had to be researched. Flowers, linens, china and any materials else used had to be from that period. I was in Charleston SC at the time, and luckily there were plenty of these items readily available but it still required the research and collaboration with the set designer. What is truly amazing is that something which takes weeks, sometimes months to create will either get cut from the movie, or have a 3 -minute screen time, but it is still exciting and rewarding.

What’s one creative trick that you’ve picked up throughout the years that you’d be willing to reveal to those new to floral design?
I’ll give you three. Education, Education, Education. Be a sponge and soak up all you can from noteworthy educators. You may have a natural talent for floral design, but chances are, you do not know the rules or the elements and principles. You need to learn these and commit them to memory so that eventually you can expand on them, or even in some cases, break the rules, and be able to defend why you did it. 

Art in Bloom

What’s your favorite part of Art in Bloom?
I enjoy the camaraderie with other florists, and the sharing of knowledge. There is just something about being with “Green” minded, artistic individuals. I have a very large floral family with talented people from around the globe. Sometimes we only see each other every couple of years, but when we get together, it’s like we’ve never been apart. I also love to provide an experience to the novice. When someone without floral design background sees our work at Art in Bloom, it’s always exciting to see their faces and to answer their questions. Of course, the first question they always ask is, “are those real flowers?” and I’m always proud to say, “but of course!”


Be a floral designer for the day!
Join Brian for the Chihuly Community Bloom & Build on Saturday, April 28 from 2:00-5:00 pm. Brian, along with colleagues Ania Norwood AIFD,CCF, EMC Aniko Kovaks AIFD, Emc, Beata Kass Emc, and Jennifer Baker Emc will guide participants as they collaborate to create a large floral installation in reaction to the art of Dale Chihuly, on display in the Museum’s Derby Court. Tickets include the interactive workshop, wine and snacks. Please note space is limited.

More about Brian: Brian Coovert CFD, Emc of Brian Coovert Floral Design in Columbus, Ohio, was raised in the rolling hills of southern Ohio where he fell in love with nature at an early age. He spent his childhood collecting flowers, leaves, rocks, branches and anything green. This turned into a life long passion and admiration for natures beauty. His designs and arrangements have been recognized nationally and published in leading publications such as Architectural Digest, Martha Stewart Weddings, Southern Living, Traditional Home, as well as, Hollywood feature films including including “Cold Mountain,” “The Notebook,” “The Legend of Bagger Vance.” In 2018 Coovert will be inducted into The American Institute of Floral Designers.