Arts Spotlight: Get to Know Adrienne McKenzie


As we navigate the beginning of the academic year in a pandemic, Arts NC State is reaching out to new students and others who’d like to get to know the faces behind the arts programs of Arts NC State. 

Be sure to visit to check out all we have to offer for your creative experiences at NC State! 

We continue our Get to Know Us series with an interview of Adrienne McKenzie, University Theatre Costume Technician, NC State alum, and finalist in the prestigious Hand & Lock Competition for Embroidery.


How long have you been involved in the arts on campus and what do you do?

I started as a student technician in the costume shop in 2010 as an undergraduate studying Art + Design at NC State University. I am now the full-time costume technician at the costume shop of University Theatre


What has been one of your favorite projects you have worked on here?

I always love working with so many students in the costume shop on speciality pieces for our productions. We’ve tackled everything from ghost cloaks for Fiddler on the Roof to a gorilla wearing a tutu in Cabaret. It doesn’t matter the production – for each show that we do, it is really exciting to know that the pieces we construct go together because of so many different individuals working on them together with the staff!

The infamous gorilla tutu Adrienne designed for University Theatre’s production of Cabaret. Photo by Ron Foreman.

Tell Us about you being a finalist for Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery! What did you submit? How did you hear about it? Tell us everything! 

I was beyond surprised to have made it to the second round of the competition. I am one of 24 selected this year out of hundreds who submitted work to be juried in. I have been in admiration of Hand & Lock’s work in embroidery since my time as an undergraduate and graduate student studying Art + Design (fibers and soft construction) here at NC State. In 2017 I studied tambour embroidery with Hand & Lock at the Williamsburg School of Needlework in Williamsburg, Virginia. I have watched the Hand & Lock Prize each year and as the entry for 2020 approached, I felt myself inspired by the concept this year and an interest in committing to a large-scale project for personal and professional growth. Surface embroidery for me is really relaxing and meditative in the process itself. 

Adrienne’s submission to the Hand & Lock competition

I officially entered right before everything shut down due to the pandemic and was very thankful that I had this endeavor to focus on at night and during the weekends to push me through personal trials and adjustments of coping in the world of COVID-19. It was during this time alone at home with shelter-in-place that my concept started to change and focus more. The 2020 prize brief is “The Poetics of Colour” and in it they asked us to “Create a colour palette meaningful to you at this moment in time, celebratory, and reflective of culture and history or your current or wished for environment.” I started to think about times in my past when I was the happiest and a lot of that was taking into consideration my childhood and being able to be outside, be with people, and experiencing the world and nature, most specifically the ocean and swimming and sunshine with my friends and family – a vast difference from being secluded (though safely and a privilege) in the walls of my home, having to stay distanced from those I love and appreciate – but rightly so to keep them safe. The embroidery I chose to create is inspired by the calming presence of water and light reflecting off of water to signify movement existence (not stagnation) of life; the colors chosen are to represent underwater life and the magic of the ocean.

Adrienne’s Hand and Lock entry up close.

Safe at home, for now I must be a land-bound mermaid, but this piece is a tribute to my simple hopes and dreams, my personal “wished for environment” where we can gather out and about with one another again in our favorite places in the world, wherever that may be, celebrating nature and safely go on adventures with our friends and loved ones creating more memories to last a lifetime. 


What have you been up to during the pandemic? What shows have you been watching or books have you been reading? Any podcasts have you been listening to?

Working from home full-time for University Theatre during the days and in my free time, when I’m not doing embroidery I have been I have been watching a great deal of series shows that activate my imagination and hopefully get me out of my daily grind: Unsolved Mysteries, Warrior Nun, The Umbrella Academy, Locke & Key, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madame C.J. Walker, as well as some movies such as: Brittany Runs a Marathon, The Old Guard, and Becoming. For TV: news for up-to-date politics; and the books I’ve been reading: Crush the King by Jennifer Estep, The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History by Kassia St. Clair, How to be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi, and Threads of Life: A History of the World through the Eye of a Needle by Clare Hunter.

Have you watched any art performances or concerts online? Which ones?

Rachel Klem and the students of Arts NC State’s University Theatre recently did a brilliant  reading of Argo via Zoom. It was amazing to see all of the very innovative ways the students came together to creatively perform this piece via technology. It was also just incredible and wonderful to see our student body creatively performing again after some time apart.

Adrienne’s beadwork, up close

What advice would you give to an incoming student about getting involved with the arts at NC State?

Arts NC State is an incredibly open community with opportunities for everyone. It is amazing how many different areas of interests there are for NC State studentsfrom dance to theatre, to classes at the Crafts Center (and I say this having been an NC State student myself)! The best thing to do is to identify what you love and get involved, don’t hold backor be brave and try something newwe’re here to support you! Feel free to approach other students or any staff or faculty members with questions or interest. We have a wide range of different classes offered as well. We are waiting for you to come participate with us! I did that as a student and, well, I never really left…!


Anything else you want to add?

Welcome back to campus! Go Wolfpack!