Friday, February 22, 2013

We’re Off to See the Wizard

Boy Faerie Illustration by Jeff Himmelman

Imagine a tiny yellow brick road winding its way across the oh-so pretty grounds of the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut. That’s right, this year’s October event will combine both the enchantment of our wee faeries and the story of The Wizard of Oz. In much the same manner as our previous creative outdoor endeavors, visitors will be able to travel around the museum grounds to discover a faerie-scaled version of Baum’s original 24 chapters: from the twisty Kansas cyclone to colorful village of Munchkinland, through the dark woods and colorful poppy fields, to the Emerald City and Wicked Witch’s castle, and home to again. The original novel even contains a few more surprises and characters that were not included in the iconic 1939 MGM movie.

Believe it or not, this year marks the Museum’s fifth “October” event that presents an imaginative display of artist-made objects based on a creative theme at the Museum.

It all started in 2009 with Wee Faerie Village and the Lyme Art Colony where the faeries who lived in little houses around Miss Florence’s boardinghouse were meant to be the artistic muses to the original 1910 artists who traveled to Old Lyme to capture its natural beauty in paint. For this creative endeavor the Museum contacted artists, both local and not-so-local, to choose a historic artist and a location on the grounds where they installed a dwelling for that painter’s faerie-muse. For three weeks in October, the grounds were bustling with activity as the faeries attracted record crowds numbering over 10,000. In fact, our first faerie village was awarded an honorable mention (one of the top three prizes) by the American Alliance of Museum's Brooking Paper on Creativity in Museums in 2010.
Faerie House by Renée Wilson, 2009
The faeries were followed in 2010 with Scarecrows at the Museum, a display of nearly three-dozen full-size scarecrows, each based on a famous artist from around the world. From Picass-crow and Marc Strawgall to Frank Lloyd Fright and Vincent van Crow, the grounds were strewn with the straw-filled famous. Many of the original faerie artists responded to our caw-for-action and participated in the second outdoor event. Others chose to take a year off, and this allowed the Museum to invite other artists and designers to get creatively involved.

Marc Strawgall by gail mally-mack, 2010
By 2011, the outdoor event was an established tradition and the participating artists looked to classic stories and fairy tales for inspiration and then re-imagined them in the form of birdhouses. Of Feathers and Fairytales: Enchanted Birdhouses at the Museum presented dozens of imaginative birdhouses, some hanging from trees while others were suspended on tall ladders or poles. For nearly a month the event changed the migration patterns of our visitors as they all flocked to Old Lyme that October.

Fairy Tale Birdhouse by Laurel Friedmann, 2011
And just last year, we returned to our wee faerie roots and presented Wee Faerie Village in the Land of Picture Making. For this sequel, the collection of 33 miniature dwellings were designed to be the homes of the faeries in charge of key aspects of nature that inspired the landscape paintings created by the artists who stayed with Miss Florence. The wee ones that looked after the trees, flowers, rivers, and more, each had a wonderfully realized miniature home nestled somewhere in the nooks and crannies of the Museum’s 11-acres—one even in the river! The public response—despite the winds of Hurricane Sandy and early winter storm Athena—was greater than any other year. Our visitors, both young and old, raved about the wee faerie village and promised to return whenever we offered up the faeries again. We decided not to make them wait too long.

Wee Faerie Farm by Sandra Bender Fromson, 2012
The Museum’s Wee Faerie Village in the Land of Oz will be a month-long outdoor event running from October 4 to November 3, 2013. The village will feature imaginative faerie-scaled scenes from the chapters of Baum’s 1900 classic—the same year the first artists came to stay with Miss Florence in her boardinghouse in Old Lyme.

It’s fun to imagine that one of those generous artists might have picked up the charming soon-to-be bestseller as a gift for Miss Florence on their way out of the city that first summer. Nevertheless, Oz will appear in Old Lyme this year, and if Dorothy knew of our plans she might just change her closing sentence from And oh, Aunt Em! I’m so glad to be at home again! to And oh, Aunt Em! There’s no place like the Home of American Impressionism!

David D.J. Rau
Director of Education & Outreach

David D.J. Rau coordinates as well as participates in the Museum’s October creative endeavors. You can contact him at

Upcoming Blog Entries:

  • Faeries and Wizards and Art, Oh My!
  • The Not-So-Crazy Logic Behind this Creative Mashup
  • Meet the Museum’s New Fantasy Illustrator Aaron Miller
  • Looking to Disney for the next Chapter in Oz
  • Just C’Oz: Other Creative Endeavors Inspired by Oz

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