A Conversation with Vicki Bowen Hewes

Jul 30, 2013

Wexner Center member Vicki Bowen Hewes spends her days providing renewed hope through a sisterhood rooted in style and substance. As founder and CEO of Dress for Success Columbus, Hewes offers professional apparel and career development resources—all free of charge—to women in need as they seek employment and navigate the workforce environment. She first volunteered at Dress for Success Indianapolis as a personal stylist to assist women with their outfit selection and help increase their confidence on job interviews. Upon meeting the women coming in for assistance, she was immediately struck by the daunting barriers women in need face when struggling to move forward—from accessing transportation and childcare to continuing their education—and how crucial a supportive professional network can be to their career development. Vicki spoke with Christy Schoedinger, the Wexner Center’s director of development, about why the Wex is important to her, and also about an exciting event that combines her passion for clothes with her love of the Wex.

Christy Schoedinger: Tell us about your first or most memorable experience at the Wex.

Vicki Bowen Hewes: I moved to Columbus in 1999 but give credit to my husband, Ken, for introducing me to the Wex in 2007, when we began dating. Early on we attended several openings and a gala or two, but what cemented my emotional attachment to the Wex was the 2008 presentation of Andy Warhol: Other Voices Other Rooms. Like Warhol, I grew up in Pittsburgh, and I’ve always been a big fan of his work. We spent hours immersed in and entranced by the exhibition at the Wex, visiting several times to be sure we’d experienced everything. As quoted by this one-of-a-kind phenom, “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am.” And the Wexner exhibit provided a chance to do that. Unforgettable!

CS: What is the most rewarding aspect of your Wex membership?

VBH: My son, who is 13 and prefers art to athletics, has had opportunities to expand his cultural understanding tremendously. The Wex has been a wonderful way to introduce him to diversity and incite thoughtful conversation through creativity. Our world is filled with complicated issues, from family dynamics to international relations, and it’s very rewarding to organically address these topics through the art and public programs at the Wex.

CS: Looking at the photo of you at the Annie Leibovitz opening with your husband, Ken, and Wex members David Skeens and Dan Ambrose, do you have any reflections on that evening?

VBH: We were so excited to attend the Annie Leibovitz opening last fall; I think you can see my enthusiasm in the photo! The breadth of the collection was incredible, and there was an iconic image around every corner. Wandering through the exhibit triggered so many memories and feelings—and then we got to meet and hear from the woman responsible for them all! An exhilarating experience!

CS: Dress for Success has an exciting event coming up on October 11 in Mershon Auditorium: Beyond the Suit, Style Takes Center Stage, featuring Lori Goldstein, Elle magazine’s style editor-at-large. Tell us about it and why you wanted to partner with the Wex on the event.

VBH: We are elated about Lori Goldstein being part of this event! The Wexner Center was our first choice due to the incredible creativity expressed through Lori’s work. Simply put, there’s immediate synergy with the irreverent, avant-garde atmosphere at the Wex and Lori’s dynamic push-the-envelope style. She sets the stage for amazing transformations through her work, and genuinely understands how empowering pulling together the right outfit and accessories can be—something we experience at Dress for Success Columbus in a very different way every day! EXPRESS’s remarkable support of our mission and their partnership with the Wex wraps it up with a beautiful bow!

CS: Why do you think it's important to have a multidisciplinary arts center like the Wex in Columbus?

VBH: The Wexner Center represents the great diversity of our contemporary culture by being both personally touching and globally relevant. The Wex is a gem. For example, the March 2012 performance by jazz pianist Vijay Iyer in his trio Tirtha just blew me away. What an incredibly unique fusion of Indian and jazz influences with such energetic and penetrating rhythms! The black box was set up cabaret-style, so the concert provided a very intimate, mind-expanding experience. All aspects of the center are intentionally thought provoking, creative, and unique.

CS: Anything else you’d like to add?

VBH: I’d just like to mention how great it is to live, raise a family, and lead a locally sustained nonprofit organization in Columbus, Ohio. It’s such a great city—vibrant, diverse, full of growth, and yet respectful of history. The generosity shown to Dress for Success Columbus continues to be at once empowering and humbling. From the inside out, I can share that the women we work with benefit immensely from contributions of apparel, volunteerism, and funding. We witness ongoing success in our clients’ personal and professional development, with women securing employment, attaining their GED and higher learning degrees, achieving economic self-sufficiency, purchasing their first home, and becoming role models for their children, peers, and our community. From our grassroots beginning to hosting a luncheon at the Wex with Lori Goldstein, I’m humbly grateful for our Board of Directors’ leadership and the community’s willingness to share resources and empower those less fortunate. It’s a work of art!