Let’s Spread the Magic!

Article written by Phoebe Zhou, a recent MAAA/MPA graduate with a focus on film at SPEA. Phoebe worked at IU Cinema, Bloomington PRIDE Film Festival when she enrolled at IU. This summer, Phoebe is interning at EMP Museum in Seattle, a leading-edge nonprofit dedicated to presenting contemporary popular culture. You can reach Phoebe at phoebezzf@gmail.com.

Fantasy gallery is a fun place in the EMP Museum. You can imagine that EMP’s Horror gallery is designed to be “horrible” and Sci-Fi gallery should be futuristic, but what kind of fantastic experience you will have in the Fantasy gallery?

When you step into the Fantasy gallery, the floor is covered with sporadic straws. While a dragon is crouching on the corner to guard the invisible cloak, witches, wizards, knights and all the magical creatures are welcoming you. A soaring tree lies at the heart of the gallery, which is covered in 48,000 tiles and builds a small space for library use.

Founded last year based on this exhibit, Myth & Magic Fair (M&M) is made up of a day faire, a late-night film screening, a feast and a masquerade ball including a game and a costume contest. It is held annually in July and is the main project I was working on.

The whole programming process was filled with research and meetings. We started with making adjustments according to the feedbacks collected last year. Our target was breaking even and meanwhile maximizing the outcome as much as possible.

The most important and tricky thing was to create the fantasy atmosphere for the audience. Limited by the budget, we had to give up several ideas such as hanging up tapestries or inviting a magician. Venue itself was also a big concern. Mainly, our event was held in the Sky Church, south lobby and outdoor plaza, which were far away from all the galleries. However, in order to protect the exhibits, many items, even like flowers or dry ice, are prohibited in the museum. Additionally, technical difficulties existed. We had once planned to reproduce the great hall scene for our Harry-Potter-themed feast from the film with flameless candles and we used video clips instead at last. Luckily, except basic decorations and live performances, we had many cosplayers involved and most of the participants wore costumes, which all contributed to make our venue a real magic world.

Challenges lay in programming logistics as well. It was a long list of questions: What’s the narrative for the feast? How to sort participants to different tables? What’s the judging process for the costume contest? How to decide the price of tokens for the day faire? When should we start selling tickets? How to guide museum visitors to the faire? Where should I put this vendor? Will it be too hot for the outdoor vendors? How to include the new exhibits in our event? How many staff and volunteers do we need?

What I most enjoyed was programming the game. My supervisor showed me several logistics examples and we developed one for the game. Participants were asked to form in teams and finish several tasks in any order. They could get a stamp for each task on their Spellbook and enter to win prizes. Although the game was set for people to have fun, which meant there was no real competition, I thought a lot about how to satisfy participants as well build interactions with each other. The game turned out to be very successful. Participants loved our customized stamps and they enjoyed themselves in every task. As a huge Harry Potter fan, I was Madam Phoebe that night, who was in charge of the Quidditch Pong station. It was a throwing game I found online and no broomsticks were required. I also participated in drafting a riddle for another task, which was full of fun.

I believe I can keep talking about the Myth & Magic Faire for several posts. There were too many stories during this period and I earned lots of precious experience, not only from programming, but also from volunteer management, event planning, etc.

I was moved and really happy when this three-day event I worked on for over two months was held.

If you visit Seattle in the middle of July, come to the Myth & Magic Faire at EMP and you will feel the power of the magic!

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