Curator Questionnaire: Toledo Museum of Art’s Halona Norton-Westbrook

What is your Holy Grail sneaker, personally and for the exhibition? 

I personally love the 2012 gold Christian Louboutin sneakers that are featured in the exhibition. For me, they perfectly encapsulate what happens when high fashion and sneaker culture combine.

What about this exhibition made it a good fit for your institution and its visitors? 

The history of sneaker culture and the evolution of 20th century aesthetics and design are closely intertwined. The exhibition has allowed us the opportunity to engage our audiences in that conversation and to bring an object that is familiar to everyone—the sneaker—and present it through the prism of art and design.

What do you hope people will take away from the exhibition?  

I hope that our visitors take away a newfound appreciation for the relationship between art, design, and fashion and a greater understanding of how sneakers and sneaker culture have evolved over time. The design in any particular shoe is something to be celebrated, but it’s all the more meaningful when you appreciate the social, cultural, and artistic context in which it was created.

What do you think visitors will be most surprised by?

I think visitors will be most surprised by the diversity of sneaker designs and by how sneaker design has reflected and responded to significant social and cultural changes in the last century.

Why do you think it’s becoming more acceptable to blend art, fashion, and elements of popular culture in a museum context?  

I think art museums are embracing the fluidity of different forms of expression—art, fashion, and popular cultural are interconnected in the sense that they are all vehicles for human creativity.

Which shoe from The Rise of Sneaker Culture do you wish was part of your wardrobe?

That’s hard to say. I do love those amazing Louboutins as well as the sky blue and gold star studded Nike X Supremes. I also love some of the more historic sneakers, such as the early Converse and Adidas.

Why do sneakers belong in a museum? 

A sneaker exhibition affords the museum the unique opportunity to tell a story about the evolution of art and design from the standpoint of an object that we are all familiar with from our everyday lives.

What makes a sneaker exhibition different from any other fashion exhibition? 

One of the things that sets an exhibition of footwear apart from other fashion exhibitions is that most of the works on display are similar in their size and basic dimensions–and all the objects are relatively small. In these circumstances, the role of the exhibition designer becomes especially important as the museum seeks to add visual variety and a sense of movement to the overall display.

How do you imagine sneaker culture will continue to unfold over the next 10 years?  

I think that sneaker culture will continue to unfold and grow from strength to strength. I think that you can expect to see more and more instances of sneakers on the runway and an expanding market for custom and artist-designed sneakers.

What’s your earliest sneaker memory? 

Seeing my older sister wearing checkerboard Vans and thinking they were the coolest shoes ever. It was California in the 1980s and those shoes were the epitome of the desirable sneaker.