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Ladies Fashion Doll exhibition and Paintings by Pete Ballard to open at the Cultural Center Jan. 18

The West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History will unveil a new exhibition, Ladies Fashion Dolls of the Nineteenth Century and Paintings by Pete Ballard, on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007 in the Cultural Center, State Capitol Complex, Charleston. Visitors can meet the artist at an opening reception that evening at 6 p.m. The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public. The fashion dolls are on display in the Art Gallery and the paintings are in the Balcony Gallery. The show will remain on display through April 1.

The fashion dolls consist of 56 costumed dolls from the West Virginia State Museum collection made of papier mache. Each doll is constructed in proportion to the particular costume it wears; the attention to the bodies is subordinate to the costumes. In addition, there are seven head and torso dolls sporting hats which are on loan from the North House Museum and the Greenbrier Historical Association in Lewisburg and the Giles County Historical Society and Museum in Pearisburg, Virginia.

The dolls in the exhibition span the three basic periods that dominated ladies’ fashion in the 19th century including the revival of the Classical Period (1800 - 1820); the Romantic Period (1820 - 1840); and the Victorian Era (1840 - 1900).

In addition to the fashion dolls, the exhibition has 15 paintings by Ballard, including a portrait of his mother. Though he does not consider himself a portrait painter, after her death, Ballard worked on this painting from a two-inch photograph, praying with every brush stroke, and signed it “God and Pete.”

Ballard of Peterstown, Monroe County, is a West Virginia artist with an international claim to fame. Born in Welch, he has a real passion for his roots in West Virginia. “I have been many places, but West Virginia is my home,” he says.

Ballard left the state to start his career, which began with teaching, including an eight-year stay in Saudi Arabia where he taught English as a second language. He later taught at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. While there he became curator at the Reynolda House Museum, the former R. J. Reynolds estate. The museum had a costume collection, and Ballard was hired to curate and conserve the collection. He also worked for many years with the late Stella Blum, curator of the Costume Institute for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition, he began the costume collections for the Mint Museum of Charlotte, N.C. and the Museum of American Art in Winston Salem, N.C. In his conservation efforts, Ballard went through vast amounts of fabric and would have many leftover scraps when the projects ended.

“Over the years, I realized the scraps were getting finer and rarer,” Ballard said. At the point I decided I was no longer interested in museum work, I found I was stuck with a mountain of fine scraps.” These scraps launched him on his next career, creating fashion dolls, which he dressed in researched authentic period costumes.

Ballard’s fashion dolls are now known across the United States. Like most of his art, the hundreds of dolls he has produced have been donated. “I do not make money producing my art. I donate it,” he said.

For more information about the exhibition, contact Charles Morris, collections and exhibits manager for the Division at (304) 558-0220, ext. 704.

The West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. Visit the Division’s website at for more information about programs of the Division. The Department of Arts, Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.


Media Note: Pete Ballard can be reached by phone at (304) 753-5114. Photographs of Pete Ballard and fashion dolls are available for download from our website at

Right click the thumbnails below and choose "Save" to download print-quality versions of the photos. The caption is below each thumbnail.

Fashion dolls from left to right: Traveling costume of mustard colored, glazed English cotton, ca. 1865. An at home costume with skirt and sash of yellow, red and black plaid taffeta, ca. 1837. A tea costume in cream scalloped at the hem and edged with lace, ca. 1900.

Fashion doll wearing a morning costume of fine white cotton, ca. 1853.

Pete Ballard, photo by Jeff Pierson