Carousel Museum to host exhibit celebrating theater’s landmark

By MIKE CHAIKEN
EDITIONS EDITOR
Hartford Stage is a respected regional theater in the U.S. Its celebration of its 50th anniversary is a big deal for the cultural scene of Connecticut.
And Bristol will be key to the theater’s celebration when Hartford Stage’s traveling exhibit, “Stagecraft: 50 Years of Design at Hartford,” comes to the city’s New England Carousel Museum in March.
The exhibit offers up costumes, props, and scenic elements from Hartford Stage’s inventory from its storied performance history. The exhibit has been or will be on display at several prestigious institutions in the state. It opened at the Hartford Public Library’s ArtWalk, traveled to the New Britain Museum of American Art, and is currently being shown at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford. After it leaves Bristol, the exhibit then heads to the state capitol in Hartford before wrapping up at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.
As Louise DeMars, the Carousel Museum’s executive director said, this keystone of Bristol’s cultural scene is now hanging with the “big boys.”
DeMars credited Michael Nicastro, the former president and CEO of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce and a member of Hartford Stage’s Board of Directors, for the opportunity that brings the exhibit to the Carousel Museum. DeMars said the stage company was looking for venues “and our name came up.”
Once the suggestion was made, DeMars said, the representatives for the exhibit came down to 95 Riverside Ave. and “they loved the place.”
And when the exhibit representatives said they’d like to bring it to Bristol, “I was shocked.”
“We’re thrilled to be included,” said DeMars. “This is an exciting step forward.”
DeMars said she found the “Stagecraft” exhibit attractive for the Carousel Museum because it was something “different” for the museum, which is part of the Bristol Center for Culture & Arts.
DeMars said the decision to bring “Stagecraft” to the city is similar to another out of the ordinary step the museum took when it hosted a recent “Steampunk” festival mounted by Brass Ring Academy and Cabaret. “We were delighted to do something different,” said DeMars of the “Steampunk” event, which put the spotlight on a pop culture genre that can best be described Victorian-age meets science future. “It was spectacular,” said DeMars of the gathering.
And as she wandered among the Steampunk crowd, and saw the kind of response, and the number of people who came to the museum for the first time, “It opened my eyes to the advantages of doing things that aren’t expected.”
DeMars said the “Stagecraft” exhibit also gives people a different and new reason to come see the Carousel Museum. And when they come to see “Stagecraft,” they may stick around and see what else the museum has to offer.
DeMars said “Stagecraft” is a great marketing tool and a way to win over new fans and volunteers, just as the Steampunk event did. The museum’s executive director said after the Steampunk academy, a number of new people stepped forward to volunteer and help the museum.
The temporary art gallery space in the carousel also has served as a great tool for bringing in new visitors, said DeMars. Since the gallery has opened, there have been 60 different exhibits and that was 60 different opportunities to bring new people into the space.
As for where the “Stagecraft” exhibit will be displayed within the museum plant, DeMars said they are looking at the gallery space as being the primary location. But she also would like to have the displays begin in the main hall and flow to draw visitors further into the Carousel Museum as a whole.
Asked what other surprises patrons can expect for the coming year, DeMars said there are some irons in the fire. And she said, “We’re wide open to listen to people’s ideas on what we should display and what we should do.”
However, topping the list of events to put on your cultural calendar, DeMars said is the March 1 Mardi Gras Party at the museum. It’s always been a popular event, she said, and the details are being firmed up and will be announced soon.
“Stagecraft: 50 Years of Design at Hartford Stage” comes to the New England Carousel Museum, 95 Riverside Ave., Bristol from March 6 to May 14. The curator of the project is Jessica Palmer and the art director is Taylor Benedum.
For more in formation on the New England Carousel Museum, which is closed until the end of February, go to TheCarouselMuseum.org
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver. com.

One of the pieces from  ‘Stagecraft: 50 Years of Design at Hartford,’ which is coming to the New England Carousel Museum. This photograph is from the publicity for the exhibit’s arrival at the Hartford Public Library last year. HARTFORD PUBLIC LIBRARY

One of the pieces from ‘Stagecraft: 50 Years of Design at Hartford,’ which is coming to the New England Carousel Museum. This photograph is from the publicity for the exhibit’s arrival at the Hartford Public Library last year. HARTFORD PUBLIC LIBRARY