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From classroom to catwalk: Lipscomb University’s Dolly exhibit steals the spotlight

Dolly Parton has left an enduring mark on multiple generations through her philanthropy and musical contributions. Lipscomb University captured this influence by curating the exhibit “Dolly Parton and The Makers: My Life in Rhinestones.” Students at the university contributed to various aspects of the exhibit, ensuring its overall success.

On October 31, 2023, Lipscomb University welcomed Dolly Parton enthusiasts from around the globe as it unveiled a curated exhibit showcasing some of the iconic singer’s most exquisite wardrobe pieces. Presented by the university’s Fashion and Design program, the collection featured attire worn by Dolly Parton throughout the various decades of her career.

Dolly Parton and President Candace McQueen celebrating the opening (Photo: Lipscomb University)

Lipscomb faculty and students collaborated closely with the designers of Dolly Parton’s outfits to curate a unique and unforgettable experience. Sean Worth, a junior graphic design major from Pennsylvania, assumed the role of Student Art Director. In this capacity, Worth played a pivotal role in crafting the visual elements used for the exhibit’s marketing.

As the Student Art Director, Worth had the opportunity to design the brand identity, logo, graphics, exhibit signage, merchandise, and a billboard in collaboration with Dolly Parton Enterprises and Penguin Random House. His creative contributions added a distinctive and visually compelling touch to the overall presentation, showcasing the synergy between academic expertise and artistic innovation at Lipscomb.

Logo created by Worth (Logo from Lipscomb University)

Logo created by Worth (Logo from Lipscomb University)

“There were so many amazing moments of this experience,” said Worth. “I got to meet Dolly herself and see her walk through the exhibit and gift area.” 

Lipscomb’s global impact, as demonstrated by the exhibit, exceeded initial expectations.

“The Makers exhibit was uncharted territory for all of us. Hosting almost 8,000 people from all over the world in Beaman Library is not something you execute every day. I was so grateful to have been in the middle of this storm for a semester,” explained Worth. 

Worth, along with dozens of other students, contributed to the project. When questioned about the impact of the exhibit on students, he stated: “This was also a great experience for the students involved, they got real-world experience and it’s such a good example of the mission of Lipscomb University.” 

Worth, other students and faculty celebrating at the opening (Photo: Lipscomb University)

With years in the making, “Dolly Parton and The Makers My Life in Rhinestones” had a profound impact on the Lipscomb community. Lipscomb University experienced an expansion in its outreach as individuals flocked to witness the exposition. Visitors from more than 30 states and nearly a dozen countries marveled at the spectacular articles of clothing on display. “Most people who attended had never heard of Lipscomb,” said Worth when asked his opinion on this. “The exhibition got a huge amount of news coverage and gave Lipscomb a strong reputation. I will never stop praising the work of Lipscomb’s professors, pushing students to the forefront of this project.”

Lipscomb University students also had the opportunity to revel in the bedazzled showcase. Hope Lovell, a senior majoring in Business and a devoted Dolly Parton enthusiast, conveyed her experience, stating, “I felt like I was standing right beside the Queen herself! Being able to see every stitch and gem was a dream come true!” She continued, “I have loved Dolly for as long as I can remember. It’s still hard for me to believe this happened at my University!”. 

Lovell, who is also minoring in Fashion Merchandising, explained how she witnessed the dedication of both students and faculty come to fruition. She stated, “No one knew Lipscomb was going to host something of this magnitude. I’m in the department and didn’t know until after it was announced! After the announcement, it was like the veil had been lifted. I was able to see my professors and friends working on everything from the metal butterflies outside of Beaman to the logistics of the exhibit. It was so freaking cool!”

The exhibition concluded on December 9, 2023. “Dolly Parton and the Makers My Life in Rhinestones” proved to be a resounding success for the Lipscomb community. Drawing attendees from across the United States and around the world, the event allowed students to witness the successful realization of their efforts.

According to Dolly Parton, “You’ll never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try.” Following this advice, both students and faculty took it literally and successfully organized an exhibit that even garnered approval from Dolly Parton herself.