The Beifuss File: Memphis designer is an unsung great
Gere Kavanaugh may be the most influential Memphis artist you’ve never heard of.
Most of her work isn’t signed. If you sat in a chair, admired a fabric, strolled through a library, scanned a typeface, unfurled an umbrella, shopped in a store or drank from a cup designed by Kavanaugh, you wouldn’t know it.
The design community is aware of her, even if the public isn’t. Earlier this winter, while Bob Dylan was not accepting his Nobel Prize in Stockholm, Kavanaugh was accepting an international arts prize, in Prague. A glossy coffee table book celebrating her life and work is scheduled for publication later this year.
At 86, she’s busy as ever. “One lifetime is not enough, even if you try,” Kavanaugh said, in a phone interview from her studio/home in the Victorian-era Angelino Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, not too far from where she once shared a bungalow studio with her friend Frank Gehry, probably the world’s most renowned living architect.
Born and raised in Memphis and educated at the Memphis Academy of Arts (the precursor to the current Memphis College of Art), Kavanaugh credits her hometown with the “foundation” that made her a pioneer in a field almost entirely dominated by men.
The designer Gere Kavanaugh is an irrepressible force of nature who epitomizes the craft and folk vibe of the 1960s and ‘70s California design scene and remains a larger-than-life personality today.
Gere Kavanaugh: Pioneer With a Penchant for Color
The renowned designer speaks about her colorful world, the collaborative and creative scene of L.A. in the ’60s and ’70s, and the power of the pencil. - Paul Makovsky
A Look at the Life's Work of Multi-Hyphenate Designer Gere Kavanaugh
The new book, A Colorful Life, sheds light on design pioneer Gere Kavanaugh's vivid story.-
Katherine Burns Olson
If It Has a Shape... by Steven Kurtz
LOS ANGELES — Someone once asked Gere Kavanaugh what she liked to design best, and with a typical mix of humor and bluntness, she answered, “Anything I can get my hands on.”
I feel very lucky to be able to call California my home. It’s a magical state, filled with diversity and color. From the lush green-hued forests to the warm earth tones of the desert, the cool blues of the Pacific, and the bright sunny skies, there’s a spectrum of hues and sights to be inspired by. It’s easy then to understand why this State has been the muse for so many great designers. One in particular has had an incredible and vast body of work that defines the notion of “California” design - Gere Kavanaugh.
Gere Kavanaugh, a trans/interdisciplinary designer who has worked nationally and internationally with profound designers such as Victor Gruen, Frank Gehry, Greg Walsh, and Dan Chadwick launched her own design company over 35 years ago. In this presentation, Gere discusses the genesis of her design work, how she gets her ideas, and the ways in which she develops her material. She gives an inside look on how her work evolved from birthday cakes to corporate design.
Groundbreaking Memphian returning to hometown, alma mater to address graduating students
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis College of Art (MCA) today announced that internationally renowned interdisciplinary designer Gere Kavanaugh will be the college’s commencement speaker for this year’s graduation ceremony Sunday, May 14, the South lawn of MCA’s Rust Hall, 1930 Poplar Ave., Overton Park. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Memphis Academy of Arts (now MCA) in 1951, and her address will focus on her Southern heritage and how it has influenced her throughout her life as a designer. Kavanaugh also delivered the college’s commencement address in 1971