12:00 pm Seminar
Gere Kavanaugh - A Life in Color- presented by Clifton Stanley Lemon

Gere Kavanaugh, center, with Clifton Stanley Lemon, far left, and Linda Jacobsen, Lauren Kasmir, and Neal Taylor in her studio in Los Angeles, 1987

Gere Kavanaugh, center, with Clifton Stanley Lemon, far left, and Linda Jacobsen, Lauren Kasmir, and Neal Taylor in her studio in Los Angeles, 1987


In the design world we don’t always understand color as an integral part of our experience of the built environment. In lighting the inextricable connection between light and color is especially important, as color is nothing but reflected light. Especially in recent years, with the evolution of many new color temperature options in light sources, we tend to focus on the “color” of light more than the colors in the environments we are illuminating. 

Gere’s deep personal connection with color began at an early age, when she remembers arranging her mother’s spools of thread. Her parents always supported her curiosity and creativity and encouraged her to pursue her interests in art and design, which led to many opportunities later in her life. She developed a keen interest in and unique perspective on color that has shaped her prodigious output of designs for textiles, furniture, exhibits, tableware, and architectural color over a long distinguished career. 

This talk looks at the relevance of color in today’s brave new world of lighting innovation, and offers a personal perspective on fascinating history of color in textiles, buildings, and artifacts; its roots in various materials and chemicals; its cultural significance; and how color shapes our experience of architecture and of life.

Learning Objectives

1) Analyze the deep connection between light and color in the built environment

2) Describe the history of color in world civilizations and its relationship to culture, economics, and design

3) Explore the often overlooked role of color in architecture

4) Investigate how color interacts with emerging lighting technologies and design approaches

Approved for 1 IES CEU and 1 AIA HSW LU

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Gere Kavanaugh
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. 

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1929, Kavanaugh became in 1952 only the third woman to earn a degree in Cranbrook Academy of Art’s design program. After successful stints as one of General Motors’ so-called “Damsels of Design” and as director of interiors for Victor Gruen’s architecture and planning firm, she opened Gere Kavanaugh/Designs. There, Kavanaugh put her unique stamp on textiles, furniture, toys, graphics, store and restaurant interiors, holiday decor, housewares, and public art—even designing and curating exhibitions. But perhaps her most enduring project has been the joyful, open-ended, ongoing experiment of her own lifestyle and homes, a dream of color and handcraft. 

Kavanaugh was awarded the 2016 American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Medal recognizing her “prodigious and polymathic approach to design. A new book about her, A Colorful Life, Gere Kavanaugh, Designer highlights her extraordinary career through snapshots, magazine features, drawings, paintings, and her own recollections, as well as those of numerous friends, colleagues, and those she has indelibly impacted.