Mystery, Magic & Mayhem comes to GV
Grand Valley State University has some new magic to share.
In collaboration with the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Mich., the GVSU Art Gallery is hosting “Mystery, Magic, & Mayhem: Wonders from the American Museum of Magic,” on display until March 20.
The idea for the exhibit started because Michigan is sort of the central area for magic in the U.S., said Nathan Kemler, collections manager at GVSU.
“Right in our backyard in Michigan, there’s kind of this culture and history of magic that no one really knows about,” he said.
Besides the museum, there is also a cemetery in Colon, Mich. where many of the magicians are buried, as well as Abbot’s Magic Novelty Store.
Henry Matthews, director of galleries and collections at GVSU, decided what items to include in the exhibit.
“It was my idea to have an exhibition of artifacts in discussions with staff and board members at the magic museum, after my first visit there,” Matthews said. “First and foremost, the poster collection is an astounding collection of 19th and 20th century print history, and thus relates to printmaking and our own collection of museum quality works on paper.”
When they saw the exhibit at the American Museum of Magic, Kemler said they were very interested in the idea of doing it at GVSU.
“One of the reasons being that the collection at the American Museum of Magic consists of hundreds of very kind-of-a vibrant and really interesting posters spanning, you know, well over a hundred years,” Kemler said.
Because the posters, also known as lithographs, cover more than one hundred years, Kemler said one of the exhibit’s focuses is on how the printing process changed over time.
The posters show the history of magic as well as magic’s connection to Michigan, and also give information about minorities and women in the performing art.
“So we’re talking about the origins of magic, there’s information and objects relating to kind of this idea of spiritualism, and how magic kind of came from that and how that was an ongoing theme throughout magic, this idea of, you know, spirits involved,” Kemler said. “Then we talk about the different types of magic. There’s escape artists, there’s illusionists, there’s sleight of hand, so there’s all these different types of magic that, you know, we all kind of group together as one thing, but they’re all very different skill sets to do each.”
Paris Tennenhouse, exhibit and collections design manager at GVSU, said the staff had fun putting the exhibit together.
“The content and theme of magic made it very fun to design,” Tennenhouse said. “There are so many things that could be done, it was hard not to go overboard. In the end, we are restricted to spatial realities, time and budget concerns, so I think the exhibition is fun to look at and tasteful, as well as educational.”
Along with the exhibit, Ellen Sprouls, education coordinator for the GVSU art gallery, organized events to accompany the series.
The GVSU Chamber Music Ensemble will play concerts in the Art Gallery Jan. 28 and Feb. 18 at 8 p.m.
“And because where the exhibit is magic, in discussion with the music department, our theme is gonna be mysterious music,” Sprouls said. “So the music will have a mystical and mysterious quality to it.”
The New Music Ensemble will also play in the gallery March 14, featuring pieces written by composition students who are competing to hear their music played.
“So the competition is going to be that the students are going to write pieces that are a minute long, and then of course the New Music Ensemble will play these pieces,” Sprouls said.
For the composition, students will use the “Mystery, Magic, & Mayhem” theme and one of the posters or objects from the exhibit as inspiration. Once the competition is over, there will be two prizes given out to the students, one for the piece that the audience liked the best and one by the three judges who are in attendance.
Other events include a lecture by Mark Schwartz, GVSU associate professor of anthropology, about the history of magic, and “A Slight of Hand. An Illusionary Night of Mystery and Magic,” which will wrap up the series on March 20 at 5 p.m.
Students interested in participating in the final magic show should contact Sprouls at email@example.com. All events are free and open to the public.
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