Lawrence Toppman

Emmy-winning designer comes back to UNCC

UNC Charlotte grad Amy Andrews Harrell, who gets a Distinguished Alumna Award this March, designed costumes for the PBS series “Mercy Street.”
UNC Charlotte grad Amy Andrews Harrell, who gets a Distinguished Alumna Award this March, designed costumes for the PBS series “Mercy Street.” PBS

When Amy Andrews Harrell studied at UNC Charlotte in the early 1980s, she majored in Creative Arts – a degree that no longer exists, but one that taught you so many interdisciplinary skills you went out into the world thinking you might do anything.

And this is the anything she has done: Shared an Emmy Award in 2008 as costume supervisor for the miniseries “John Adams.” Been nominated for another for the 2013 miniseries “Killing Lincoln.” Designed costumes for the PBS series “Mercy Street,” about volunteer nurses on opposing sides of the Civil War.

Worked with Steven Spielberg, Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks, Jane Fonda, Mel Gibson, Sam Shepard and Nicole Kidman among the four dozen jobs she’s held as costume designer, costume supervisor, wardrobe supervisor or key costumer. And most recently, seen her designs for the first season of “Mercy Street” included in the 10th annual Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Museum and Library.

No wonder Harrell (class of ’85) will come back to Belk Theatre on campus March 17 to receive a Distinguished Alumna Award in theater. She’ll be onstage at 11:30 a.m. alongside four fellow award-winning graduates: Melissa Farling (’88, architecture), Margaret McAdams (’77, art and art history), Hardin Minor (’79, dance) and Douglas James (’79, music). The free event is open to the public.

Harrell started as a musician: She played trumpet from girlhood right up into the Independence High School marching band. But she met theater design professor Bob Croghan at UNCC and realized her true talents lay elsewhere.

“Bob taught us perseverance," she has said. “To think big. And he instilled in us a thrill and love of costumes.” The point couldn’t be better taken.

Toppman: 704-358-5232

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