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Guide to the Bernard Johnson Papers MS.P.053
MS.P.053  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing History
  • Biography
  • Collection Scope and Content Summary
  • Collection Arrangement

  • Title: Bernard Johnson papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MS.P.053
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections and Archives, University of California, Irvine Libraries
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 7.3 linear feet (7 boxes and 1 oversize folder)
    Date: 1957-1997
    Abstract: This collection documents the career of Bernard Johnson, a dancer, costume designer, director, choreographer, and teacher who served as the first professor of costume design at UC Irvine from 1991-1997. Materials document Johnson's professional work in theatre, film, and television, as well as his tenure in academia. The collection consists of original costume design artwork, clippings, correspondence, photographs, negatives, ephemera, and other material.
    Creator: Johnson, Bernard, 1936-1997

    Access

    The collection is open for research.
    Access to original video recordings is restricted; researchers may request use copies.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the University of California. Copyrights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permission to reproduce or to publish, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    Bernard Johnson papers. MS-P053. Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, Irvine, California. Date accessed.
    For the benefit of current and future researchers, please cite any additional information about sources consulted in this collection, including permanent URLs, item or folder descriptions, and box/folder locations.

    Acquisition Information

    Gifts, 2001-2002.

    Processing History

    Processed by Judy Chou, 2014.

    Biography

    Born on December 12, 1936, Bernard Johnson was raised in Detroit, Michigan with four sisters and one brother. At the age of eleven, Johnson voluntarily attended ballet classes with his younger sister and soon became enthralled with the art of dance. He also credited his fascination with dance to the film Red Shoes, which he viewed as a child.
    Even though Johnson started off as a dancer, he soon became involved in the art of costuming. In 1954 at the age of 18, he won a scholarship to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. At FIT, he studied fashion design and dancing, which included modern dance, tap dancing, classical, jazz, Katherine Dunham techniques, and other styles. At 5’2”, Johnson became part of the New York Negro Ballet ensemble (now the Ballet Americana) between the ages of 18 and 19. It was around this time that he met and married fellow dancer Cleo Quitman, with whom he had one son, Byian. He became the lead dancer of the “Bluebird pas de deux” from the theatrical production of Sleeping Beauty, which was held at the Edinburgh Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. During this time, he also danced the mambo and samba onstage with Josephine Baker.
    After graduating, Johnson amassed an extensive list of credits as a director, choreographer, performer, costume designer, and teacher, working in theatre, television, and film. He co-choreographed, directed, and designed the costumes for Broadway Soul at Lincoln Center as a Broadway veteran. He also performed and directed numerous theatrical productions throughout the United States, South Korea, and Russia. He had his own costume design company in New York called Estudio Inc. and was eventually nicknamed the “Black Cecil Beaton.”
    Throughout his career, Johnson won numerous awards including an Emmy Award for costume design for To All My Friends in 1972, a Harveys Bristol Cream Tribute to Black Designer Award in 1980, and two Tony Awards for Raisins in 1974 and Eubie in 1979. In 1977, Johnson was inducted to the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame for Costume Design. His costumes were also showcased at the now defunct Black Fashion Museum in Harlem and later Washington, D.C. Johnson taught at various schools throughout the nation, including the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, the New Dance Group Studios, the American Dance Festival (Duke University), Clark Center for the Performing Arts, and UC Irvine’s Dance Department. He also taught in Moscow, Russia in 1992 under the auspices of the American Dance Festival and was an associate director of Dance Ellington.
    In 1991, on the recommendation of UC Irvine dance professor and choreographer Donald McKayle, Johnson was recruited as the first UC Irvine professor of costume design for dancers, obtaining an appointment as an assistant professor of dance. He taught students how to draw designs, create patterns, sew, and choose and work with different patterns. He also designed costumes for faculty and student concerts. On January 22, 1997, Johnson passed away at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, New York at the age of 60. He was survived by his son, a grandson, two sisters, and partner George R. Bergeron. A public memorial service was held for Johnson at UC Irvine’s Concert Hall. A theatrical tribute was also held in his honor at UC Irvine’s School of Arts Dance Vision II concert.

    Collection Scope and Content Summary

    This collection documents the career of Bernard Johnson, a dancer, costume designer, director, choreographer, and teacher who served as the first professor of costume design at UC Irvine from 1991-1997. Materials document Johnson's professional work in theatre, film, and television, as well as his tenure in academia. The collection consists of original costume design artwork, clippings, correspondence, photographs, negatives, ephemera, and other material.

    Collection Arrangement

    This collection is arranged in 7 series:
    • Series 1. Correspondence and biographical materials, 1975-1997, undated, 0.25 linear feet
    • Series 2. Photographic materials, 1978-1979, 1993-1995 and undated, 0.5 linear feet
    • Series 3. Original artworks, 1984, 1993 and undated, 3.3 linear feet
    • Series 4. Video recordings, 1990-1995, undated, 0.1 linear feet
    • Series 5. Clippings, 1957-1993 and undated, 2.1 linear feet
    • Series 6. Theatrical printed ephemera, 1973-1996, undated, 0.8 linear feet
    • Series 7. UC Irvine, 1991-1995, undated, 0.25 linear feet

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Johnson, Bernard -- Archives
    University of California, Irvine. -- Faculty -- Archives
    Costume design drawings.
    Costume designers
    Ephemera -- 20th century
    Theater -- 20th century -- Archives