Meet theo tyson, the MFA’s new fashion curator

Escalating up in Germany, Ga, South Carolina, Texas, California and Alabama, theo tyson realized quickly that vogue was both of those a way to assimilate into a lifestyle, and mark your exceptional id.

“When I was in Germany in middle faculty, I’m donning shiny sneakers, harem trousers. When I received to the States, I was just strange,” tyson states with a giggle.

theo tyson (Courtesy Frances Neyra Claudio)
theo tyson (Courtesy Frances Neyra Claudio)

tyson started their new position as the Penny Vinik Curator of Fashion Arts at Boston’s Museum of High-quality Arts this 7 days, exactly where they hope to have interaction folks who might have by no means stepped foot into a museum, to encourage all individuals to interact with the arts.

They had a winding path to the MFA. Soon after earning a company management degree from Alabama A&M University, tyson labored in cash wealth administration, automotive customization and restoration, in retail for Bloomingdale’s and Victoria’s Top secret. They owned and operated trinity productions, an party production and experiential system organization specializing in fashion demonstrate creation.

“Fashion is, by default, an inclusive space,” tyson suggests. “I really don’t want men and women to imagine they have to have to have a Ph.D. or be a rocket scientist to engage with manner art, or the arts as a whole”

They give off a neat professor vibe. They are down-to-earth, self-depreciating, funny — really, funny, truly. They don’t want to be found as the archetypal educational museum authority determine, though. They really do not like the word “lecture.” (“I really do not want to current myself as an authority. That plays as well a great deal into this patriarchal thought of authority.”)

“Museums totally have to have to be decolonized. We all belong in these spaces. Displaying up for myself also usually means displaying up for other Black folks, other queer people, other folks that are not nicely-versed in the canon,” tyson suggests. “We will need to be additional relatable and dismantle the siloed watch of curators, and comprehend we all have a thing to supply.”

Lauren Daley: How did you get into manner curation?

theo tyson: I’ve often been into vogue, but not curation or museums. My beginning is in retail — from Victoria Secret’s to Bloomingdales — performing with people today who wore the outfits versus the theories guiding why they wore them.

Then in 2016, my associate at the time questioned what I preferred to do for my birthday. I explained, “I want to go to Savannah to see the Vivienne Westwood exhibition.” She was not into museums, just FYI. She was like, “OK, if that’s what you want to do.”

We went to SCAD Museum of Art. I was standing in entrance of a hand-pieced macrame masterpiece embroidered with these wonderful Swarovski crystals, and the light-weight strike it — I experienced a massive crocodile tear. I was just staring at it, imagining: “I do not understand what is going on right now, but I will need to determine out how to do this.”


So I made a decision to go again to college at Savannah Faculty of Art and Style and design. I went back to college after not being in school for a while, we’ll place it that way. I was nontraditional. I was like, “Where are the No. 2 pencils and scantrons? What is taking place?”

[laughs] Correct.

Artwork record was a need. I had a superb professor, Emily Webb. She pulled up a photograph of the portray “Madame X” by John Singer Sargent.

Other college students had been talking about composition, paint-strokes. I mentioned, “I really don’t know that language — but I do know there’s a costume, and the way she’s wearing it indicates this.” It was my level of entry. It was self-discovery and studying new languages. Style is a language.

How did fashion discuss to you by way of that portray?

I recognized Sargent was hoping to exhibit a sense of position — the draping, the neckline, the waistline, the bodice. The conclusion for Madame X to don that gown, the conclusion Sargent created in painting it — these are the matters I’d seen in authentic lifetime. It’s what I simply call “The Fitting Room Chronicles” — I have expert this with people at Bloomingdale’s. When you are standing in the fitting room with a person in their skivvies, and they’re telling you what they want to set on their physique, they are telling you who they want to be. Manner is armor. It’s what we place on to secure ourselves and current ourselves.

It is intriguing how manner performs into identity.

I never even know if trend performs into our identification — it performs our identification for us.

Good point. And has it constantly been this way considering the fact that the dawn of fashion?

Oh my god, indeed. We never even have plenty of documentation to assistance how vogue has impacted our recent life and how much it should be a portion of not just record, but historiography.

What do switching styles say about our culture? The way a hemline might rise, or when females began wearing trousers?

Or adult men stopped donning heels.


theo tyson at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film. (Courtesy Acquille Dunkley)
theo tyson at SCAD FASH Museum of Vogue + Film. (Courtesy Acquille Dunkley)

It is a power engage in. And I will not bore you with my complete-on soapbox about white heteronormative patriarchy…[For example] there is a entire conversation on pink and blue — pink utilized to be the most masculine color.

My time at the Boston Athenæum was put in researching 19th-century images, particularly, seeking at the way Black women self-fashioned for a sense of humanity and fairness. Rapidly ahead to the 20th and 21st centuries: we have T-shirts that say “f— the patriarchy.” Trend as a way to communicate — not just your private identity, but your community identity, your political identity — however stands. From miniskirts to not wearing a bra, to ladies carrying fits, adult men donning skirts. All of that culminates in that idea of the electricity manner has.

I didn’t know pink was after noticed as masculine.

Peculiar, ideal? Or that adult men applied to use heels, and powder their faces, put rouge on their cheeks. We can see all of our quotation-unquote forefathers in wigs. It’s like, ‘Dude, what are you doing?’

[laughs] What do you imagine of when you get dressed in the early morning?

How do I want to be perceived? How do I want to be acquired? Since individuals are two distinct things. I can convey to you what I wore to my job interview at the MFA. I required to existing myself as qualified, as capable in regard to possessing understanding of manner and art. I also needed to present me.

I wore a black-on-black camouflage tuxedo fit, a white Edgar Pomeroy couture shirt with French cuffs. I did not place in cufflinks, so the cuffs hung down previous my fingertips. A black tie from Concentrate on, and a pair of Christian Dior black and white Spectators. Braided my hair into a mohawk. It was an armor.

Do you normally have a tendency to use all black or white?

Often. My persona is colorful enough.

What I’d like to do in this part is to clearly show that assimilation is not a denial of identification, it’s a reclamation of humanity. I get to use these clothing simply because I get to be whoever the f— I want to be.

What is the initially demonstrate you have planned?

Oh, you can not talk to me that. [laughs] I have 20 shows in my head…

For the MFA to basically exhibit up for me is large. A female — Myriam Negron — worked in HR at the MFA she has considering that retired. I remember staying on the cellphone for the official career supply. She told me, “This is my past day at the MFA. You are my legacy hire.”


I’m likely to test not to get psychological. For her to accept that my participation in trend experienced the probable to produce a legacy, had the probable for transform — I’m choked-up. What do you do with that? You do the ideal you can. You invite absolutely everyone in. For the reason that a legacy is what you go away powering, an giving for other folks. We’re doing it in a way that embraces queerness. We’re accomplishing it in a way that embraces blackness. We’re doing it in a way that embraces inclusivity and intersectionality at its core.

Job interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.