The Mead Art Museum held their Community Day for the Spring Semester, called “Fool Mead Once” on April 1, 2017. After entering the Mead that afternoon, I was immediately handed a miniature magnifying glass and a booklet advertising a scavenger hunt being held for that day. There were children constructing flipbooks and a few signs pointing me in the direction of the highlighted exhibits, Kota Ezawa’s “The Garden Revisited,” along with a series of short animated films dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. After viewing Ezawa’s works and watching an animated dinosaur prance around in a black and white silent film, I sat down to speak with Keely Sarr, Assistant Museum Educator at the Mead Museum and the primary architect of this event.
Q: Could you give us a brief overview over the “Fool Mead Once” event?
A: “Fool Mead Once” is our Spring Community Day. We have Community Days once a semester, and these are open to not only the students of Amherst College but also the broader Amherst population. We get families and groups of all ages. This event in particular was inspired by our current special exhibition in the Rotherwas Room — Kota Ezawa’s “The Garden Revisited.” Because Ezawa plays around with animation, light boxes, cartooning and several other tricks needed to create something like that, we thought that in the April Fool’s Day Spirit, we would hold an event to celebrate the different tricks that artists can pull on us.
Q: What exactly do you mean when you say “the April Fool’s Day Spirit”? Furthermore, how does that spirit relate to the exhibits being highlighted?
A: Ever since the early 1900’s, animators have been using various tricks and illusions to create visual effects on screen, even before the dawn of computer animation or CGI. While everyone else may be pulling pranks on each other today, we decided to focus on the tricks that animators pull on us from the short films created in the 1910’s to Kota Ezawa’s light boxes in 2017.
Q: Could you please describe the Ezawa exhibit’s background and what it entails?
A: On March 18, 1990, two thieves posing as police officers stole 13 artworks estimated at $500 million from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Ezawa has recreated these stolen artworks in the form of these “light boxes” that you can see hanging around the Rotherwas Room. These images are not exact copies of the works, but instead serve as memorials to the works that were stolen and have not yet been recovered. Some of the activities we have today are very much inspired by that, such as showing people how to make their very own lightboxes using cupcake boxes, tea lights and craft paper. We are also teaching people how to make flipbooks and other crafts related to the Gardner Museum. The Ezawa exhibit is our second in a new series of contemporary installations in our Historic Rotherwas Room. While the room itself dates all the way back to the 17th century, starting last fall our director, David Little, has sourced a contemporary artist to showcase in that space every semester, bringing entirely new and modern works into this historical space.
Q: What kinds of activities are you putting on for the general Amherst community during “Fool Mead Once”?
A: We have created a scavenger hunt booklet that displays pictures of the original works stolen form the Gardener Museum. We ask visitors to look very closely as they explore Ezawa’s lightboxes and try to see if they can spot the alterations he made in recreating them. Guests love finding the differences that Ezawa intentionally left in these lightboxes.
Q: Do you have any upcoming events that you want the Amherst community to know about?
A: We do not plan on having any more Community Days for the rest of the semester, but we will have a few over the course of the summer, open to anyone who is around at the time. We also plan on having several family workshops, as we tend to do a little bit more once school is out. Next fall, we will have plenty more community events and student events ready to go, and they will be open to all members of the community.
Q: Do you have any final thoughts or suggestions to give to the Amherst community?
A: Check out the Ezawa exhibit while you still have the chance, as it will only be here until around the middle of summer. If you want to see this incredibly interesting juxtaposition between electric lightboxes and classic 17th century painting, you should come on down to the Rotherwas Room. The exhibit has been receiving plenty of national attention, so make sure not to miss this great opportunity to see an exciting moment in art history!