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“Stroma” is one of the many textiles and furniture designs showcased in “Dan Cooper (1901-1965): An American Designer” at the University of Rhode Island Textile Gallery. A popular design of the 1940s, “Stroma” was featured in magazine advertisements and beach clubs.

Groundbreaking textiles on exhibit

The innovative textiles by American designer Dan Cooper showcased at the URI Textile Gallery will be a surprise to most visitors. The textiles and furniture are designs from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s being revived in current fashion trends.

“Dan Cooper (1901-1965): An American Designer” is being shown in the Textile Gallery on the first floor of Quinn Hall on the Kingston Campus. It is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday through the end of February.

The exhibit was created by URI alumna Diane Montenegro, who borrowed the textiles from the American Museum of Textile History, other universities, and Cooper’s personal collection.

During his career, Cooper designed wallpaper, bedspreads, fashion accessories, apparel and, most importantly, textiles for residential and commercial interiors for international clients.

The exhibit features press coverage of Cooper’s many innovations, including magazine articles displaying his textiles on wallpaper and curtains. Collages of Cooper’s moods are featured in the textile showcases — a display of leaves in fall and “a cat design that sold well despite his deep dislike for cats,” said URI Associate Professor of Textiles Margaret Ordoñez.

One of Cooper’s most unusual business ventures was “ready-to-assemble” furniture. During the war rationing of 1941, Cooper began creating affordable yet strong, unassembled furniture that he called “PAKTO”.

“It was a surprising business venture. Most of Cooper’s clients were well-to-do,” said Ordoñez. “Cooper also wrote a book on home designs and textiles encouraging people to apply taste to designs and create on a sensible budget.”

A photograph of Cooper’s penthouse showroom in the RCA Building in Rockefeller Plaza exemplifies his own drive to apply taste on a broader budget with polished furniture and classy designs in a moody setting.

Following his death in 1965, his late sister Mary Francis Cooper Doyle collected her brother’s designs, blue prints, photographs and many sample textiles and stored them in her New Hampshire home. This exhibit is dedicated in her memory.

By Sarah Emmett

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