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Local students inspired by costumes of The Wiz! Live

Kristine Sorensen
November09/ 2016

This segment first appeared on KDKA-TV.

The Tony-winning costume designer for the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” is also the costume designer for the TV musical “The Wiz!”  Pittsburgh is the first city to feature those costumes in an art exhibit, and now, local students are learning about the designer, about art and about following your dreams. The exhibit at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Downtown Pittsburgh is extremely colorful and creative and connects with a story we all know — the Wizard of Oz.  So it’s a perfect way to introduce young people to art, art museums, fashion, costume design and pursuing their dreams.

The Wiz! meets couture fashion in this live TV version of the musical. The costumes up close reveal silver leather, hand-dyed felt, architectural silhouettes, even fiber optic lights spewing from Glinda the Good Witch’s gown.

Local fashion designer Kiya Tomlin walks through the exhibit, amazed every time she sees it.  “The artwork that goes into these pieces is mind-blowing,” Tomlin says.  She and her husband, Mike Tomlin, helped fund the educational component of the exhibit.  Kiya is inspired by these costumes and hopes local students will be, too.

Kids in grades 8 through 12 from Westinghouse and University Prep schools learned about the exhibit in class and are getting a tour of the exhibit at the August Wilson Center with the curator, Demeatria Boccella. Eighth-grader Robyn Arrington-Epperson has never seen anything like this. She has several favorites, including the wizard costume worn by Queen Latifa and the Eviline the wicked witch costume worn by Mary J. Blige.

The costumes were designed by Paul Tazewell, who recently won a Tony for his costumes in the Broadway hit HamiltonThe Wiz! costumes are going from Pittsburgh to Broadway for a run on stage.

Tomlin and Boccella hope the students are inspired by Tazewell’s artistry, hard work and success.  “Especially knowing that this is an African-American artist, an award winner who created these, I hope that they can put themselves in those shoes and be inspired by that,” Tomlin says of the students touring the exhibit.  “I think that’s what I hope – that there’s no limits.”

Boccella adds, “We want kids, especially kids of color, to see reflections of themselves. I think it’s important as we inspire and empower our young people.”

That’s happening in different ways for different students. Arrington-Epperson says she’s inspired by Tazewell because she doesn’t see a lot of African-Americans in fashion design. Senior D’Ama Taylor especially likes the poetry that describes each design since she writes poetry herself. “It’s actually inspiring because something that relates directly to me is right in front of me and inspiring me to move forward,” she says.

Costumes of The Wiz! Live continues at the August Wilson Center through Nov. 30. There will be more school groups coming through, but, of course, families are welcome to visit anytime.

Kristine Sorensen

I am proud to work at KDKA-TV -- anchoring the news, hosting Pittsburgh Today Live and doing special reports. I am married to KDKA reporter Marty Griffin and we have 3 children. I first moved to Pittsburgh in 1999 but I’ve lived in Dallas, Johnson City, Tenn., Chicago, Williamsburg, Va., Milwaukee and Winter Park, Fla. Pittsburgh is now the place I call home.