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Oct 30

New exhibits include Dreaming of a Retro Xmas and Savages and Princesses

Posted on October 30, 2019 at 3:45 PM by Becky Burnside

Aluminum Christmas trees and Native American stereotypes are the themes of two separate and very different temporary exhibits beginning in November at the Johnson County Museum.

The two exhibits are: Dreaming of a Retro Xmas beginning Nov. 12, and Savages and Princesses - The Persistence of Native American Stereotypes beginning Nov. 20. 

Both exhibits take place at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park. Exhibit admission is included with regular museum admission rates of $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $3 for children, until Jan. 1, when admission increases to $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $4 for children. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and is closed on Sunday.

Dreaming of a Retro Xmas celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Evergleam, the first commercially successful aluminum Christmas tree. This exhibit will remain on display through Jan. 11.

“This exhibit is one of those fun, nostalgic exhibits that highlights a piece of our past,” said Museum Curator of Interpretation Andrew Gustafson. “The aluminum Christmas tree is such an iconic piece of Americana, even if we did not own one, it represents a place and time for many people. This exhibit will help give visitors a sense of the types, colors, and variations in the trees, and will tell them a little bit about the history of this Space Age holiday decoration.”

This exhibit features the collection of Johnson County residents Steve and Mary Pruitt, which includes aluminum Christmas trees and other vintage Christmas decorations from the 1950s and 60s, as well as some of the museum’s own collection of Johnson County-based Christmas décor.

About 20 Christmas trees will be on display for this exhibit, along with several other pieces of Space Age decoration. The oldest aluminum tree dates to 1959, its “birth year,” and is still unopened in its original box. 

Dreaming of a Retro Xmas will be arranged inside the All-Electric House and out on its “front yard,” both of which are located inside the museum.

A program called History on Tap - The Life and Times of the Aluminum Christmas Tree was recently scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 12, and will feature Steve and Mary Pruitt talking about and presenting a tour of the aluminum tree exhibit. 

Savages and Princesses: The Persistence of Native American Stereotypes is a travelling exhibit which was first curated by America Meredith, a Native American artist in Oklahoma. The exhibit consists of over thirty contemporary artworks by 13 nationally-recognized Native American artists, and includes small art objects, framed pieces, and a giant installation.

“The pieces deal with the theme of stereotyping Native Americans and the wide diversity of Native American cultures,” Gustafson said. “Themes like the ‘savage warrior’ or the ‘drunken Indian’ are everywhere in popular culture, from books to movies to sports team mascots. This exhibit really takes a look at the stereotypes, and through the use of emotion - humor, anger, sadness - helps visitors to reflect on those stereotypes. It is a great opportunity to learn about another point of view, to learn about ourselves, and a chance to make ourselves more aware of other cultures in our own community.”

This exhibit is made possible by Mid-America Arts Alliance and Exhibits USA, as well as through funding from Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission (KCAIC) and the National Endowment for the Arts. The November start of the exhibit ties into National Native American Heritage Month, and Savages and Princesses: The Persistence of Native American Stereotypes will be on display in the museum’s exhibit room through March 14.

One of the museum’s goals for the exhibit is to start some conversations about Native American stereotyping. Towards this end, several tie-in programs are being planned, including a panel discussion called Distorted Images: Indians in Popular Culture set for Feb. 17.  This panel will be moderated by the original exhibit’s curator, America Meredith, and will feature local and national Native American artists, curators, and activists. The panel will tackle the tough themes of the exhibit, as well as contemporary realities for Native Americans in the United States, and promises to be a thought-provoking event.

Other programs relating to this exhibit include a Lunch & Learn on Nov. 22 called Disruption Then Disease, and another Lunch & Learn on Jan. 23 called Resettlement and Reeducation of Indians in Kansas. Registration for this program begins November 18.