A Farmington man with a unique eye for the unusual, along with the talent to match, is taking the first steps in fulfilling his long-time dream of opening a museum that focuses on myths and legends.
To turn his dream into reality, Kendall Hart has joined forces with John Burroughs, an expert in the fields of museum studies, public/nonprofit administration and policy analysis, to create The World Myth Museum — and both men have been keeping their nose to the grindstone in their workshop at The Factory downtown.
Seriously, if there’s anybody who could make this museum a success, it’s Hart and Burroughs.
Hart is well-known in the area for having created a series of life-sized mythological characters that elicit a mixture of awe and admiration from all who see them. A professional illustrator, graphic designer and sculptor, Kendall’s creations have been inspired by fantasy and surrealism — along with the exaggerated realism of the iconic painter of Americana, Norman Rockwell — as he has sought to share his visions with the world in both the second- and third-dimensions.
With a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and extensive study in graphic design — along with many years of corporate art direction and freelance experience — Hart has cultivated a wide range of skills with an innate ability to combine both the traditional and contemporary into something incredibly different.
His art and design can be found in graphic novels, books, websites, toy and horror film concept art, as well as major haunt attractions, natural history museums, and private collections.
Hart recalled the assignment he received that changed the direction of his life.
"I attended Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois, for my BFA,” Hart said. “I should have known I was destined for 'big things' when my art class was tasked by the late yet eternally inspirational professor, Peter Slavish, with the project of creating a wire sculpture and our class given access to a one-mile bale of steel wire.
"My classmates all turned in tabletop-sized sculptures for review while I went overboard and created a life size 25-foot-tall young dragon. It filled an entire studio in the art building and was even purchased by my professor. I wonder where that dragon is today?"
The concept for The World Myth Museum had its roots in Hart’s successful traveling exhibit, Gardens of Myth. Developed by Kendall and his wife Joanna. Asked to describe the exhibit, Hart said, “Gardens of Myth is a collection of life-size, super realistic sculptures depicting creatures of myth from around the world. These creatures are familiar today in popular culture and range in size from the tiniest fairies to the incredible, dinosaur-sized dragon.”
The goblins of Germany, Bigfoot of North America, and the leprechaun of Ireland were included in the exhibit and interpreted as part of culture and history. Each sculpture was designed, sculpted, and hand-finished by Hart and his team at Grimstone Studios. Needless to say, it was a rip-roaring success for the artist.
“Kansas City’s Powell Gardens hosted the exhibit in 2017 and reported 20,423 visitors experiencing the exhibit, with another 10,000 viewing the exhibit in conjunction with a special event,” Hart said. “Huntsville Botanical Gardens in Alabama next hosted the exhibit in 2018, and reported attendance of 53,000 visitors during a four-month period. These encouraging attendance levels and the satisfaction of the host institutions encouraged the concept of a museum to become the permanent home of these exhibits... and so much more.”
So, all that brings us to today and an announcement Hart and Burroughs made last week that the World Myth Museum has officially launched operations and that they have begun the design and development of this one-of-a-kind project.
“The World Myth Museum project is currently headquartered in Farmington while we are in development and seek a permanent location for the museum,” Hart said. “We will announce our local public events later this spring, but our top locations at the moment are the St Louis metro area and Northwest Arkansas.”
Asked about the vision he and Burroughs have for the museum, Hart said, “The mission of the museum is to preserve and promote the stories that inspire our world. We envision it as the premier organization for the exploration, collection, and sharing of cryptozoology, cultural legends, unexplained phenomena, and all things rumored to be a part of the world — but yet proven to exist.”
Burroughs grew up on a Southern Illinois farm and has had a lifelong interest in the history of the American frontier and agriculture, as well as the role of mythmaking and legends in mankind's collective identity. It is these interests that led Burroughs to pursue a museum career and why he’s so excited about the project.
“The nature of the museum will be based in curiosity live at the juncture of the unexplained, the unexpected, and the undiscovered,” he said. “This museum will allow visitors to walk through the shadows of knowledge and imagination, where art, history, and science meet to interpret those stories that have defined cultures and explained our world.
“We're developing exhibits to provide the basis for all of the other forms of our educational programs that will range from lectures, in-class visits and tours, to distance learning. The foundation for all of our work is the creation of an immersive, hands-on, and life-long experience for people of all ages that will provide them with a meaningful and enjoyable visit to the museum.
“Kendall has several world-class sculptures underway that depict regional legends while we consider possible sites where we can locate the permanent facility. Our initial goal is to place a 36,000-square-foot main museum building on a 10-acre campus, which will allow for a walking trail and outdoor activities based on our exhibits.
"We're also planning to create galleries for the permanent exhibits; special exhibits; a children’s gallery and collections display gallery; conference and special event space; a research library; offices; workshop; a gift shop; and a place for the management and storage of collections.”
For more information about the museum, follow The World Myth Museum on social media (https://www.facebook.com/worldmythmuseum/ and https://www.instagram.com/worldmythmuseum/) or visit the museum website at www. mythmuseum.org. A GoFundMe account has been set up for the museum at https://gofund.me/e413f951.
Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-756-8927 or email@example.com