Decorating blitz prepares museum for holidays

‘Tis the season at the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan, where staff and volunteers are currently engaged in a holiday decorating blitz. All of the happy scurrying about comes in anticipation of the museum’s annual Season of Light celebration that kicks off Nov. 9 with an opening reception.

This gala event, planned from 6 to 8 p.m., will provide museum goers with the first sneak peak of all the light-themed holiday exhibits and decorations displayed throughout the facility.

“Besser Museum’s Season of Light is filled with awe and wonder with each gallery designed to stir up old memories and create new ones,” said Museum Executive Director Chris Witulski. “A perfect way for you to be a conductor of light this holiday season is to bring your friends and family to experience the Season of Light exhibits.”

Tickets to the opening reception are $10 and include hors d’oeuvres and door prizes. The tickets can be purchased in advance at Neiman’s Family Market and the museum or at the door the night of the event.

Door prizes include gift certificates from Myers Fashions, Etc., North Country Candy & Gifts, Lasting Expressions, The Marketplace at Alpena, Olivet Book & Gift, Alpena Furniture, Bolenz Jewelry and Bob’s Gun Shop. The door prizes will be drawn at 7:45 p.m., and winners need not be present at the time of the drawing.

When visitors first step inside the museum lobby, they immediately will be struck by the nostalgic “store front” window exhibit created by Delynn Medina and Marilyn Thom, with construction help from staff members Randy Shultz and Matt Klimczak. The two women spent hours creating four different three-dimensional displays that will serve as a centerpiece exhibit.

“These mock department store windows, complete with two Victorian skaters that for year’s twirled inside the Alpena Furniture window displays, will spark the kid in all of us,” Witulski said. “There was a time when the unveiling of big department store Christmas window displays signaled the count down to Christmas Day. Memories of little children pushing their noses against the windows hoping to see their names written on Santa’s list, or standing in long lines for a chance to sit on his lap and give them their wish list come to mind.”

Witulski said that while many may have visited windows at Macy’s or Hudson’s department stores, for local residents, it was Alpena Furniture that captured the attention of young and old alike.

Once again, Dianne Sharp has brought her personal Christmas village collection to the museum to share. With help from family, friends and Shultz, Sharp always puts a new surprising twist to the village every year.

“Children love peering into the lit windows of the little houses to see what they will discover,” Witulski said. “You will be amazed at all the detail that goes into Dianne’s extraordinary Christmas Village exhibit.”

In a nod to the “gift giving” season, the museum has put together Santa’s Top Shelf inside Wilson Gallery, where the creative pursuits of many local artists can be seen and purchased for the holidays. Among the artists featured are Erich Carlson, Chris Wozniak, Leon Ruder, Thomas Richter, Anita and Tom Harmon Ann Gildner, Kathy Schafferly, Betsy Willis, Gail Stelick and Marianne Fairbanks.

“These very talented artists have found what sparks them,” Witulski said. “Painting, pottery, woodworking, and sewing are just a few examples of what you will find illuminating Santa’s Top Shelf.”

On display from the museum’s collections are the works of artist Yaacov Agam, a contemporary Israeli artist who is best known for his kinetic and op art. Another constant in Agam’s art is his use of vibrant rainbow inspired colors. Witulski said the pieces of his work that she has selected to share highlight his use of dynamic colors, repetitive patterns and methodical precision.

“It seemed only fitting to pick pieces of art for the Season of Light exhibit that play with light and utilize brilliant color,” she said. “There will be 17 works by Agam displayed during the Season of Light exhibition. These pieces show his nonrepresentational style, along with his integration of formalist art, with that of the Kabbalah (the study of Hebrew mysticism).”

Since the Season of Light focuses on holiday traditions that celebrate the virtues of hope, peace and good will toward men, the museum decided to dedicate a gallery to what is being called “The True Spirit of Christmas.” This gallery will showcase some of the non-profit organizations in the community who generously do good and offer hope to others throughout the year.

Each organization was asked to decorate a Christmas tree that best represents the services they provide to the public. The public is invited to come enjoy the creativity displayed by these community organizations and learn more about their services.

Staff members also remind the public about the museum’s Gift Shop for whenever they need a small gift for their child’s teacher, to exchange at a holiday party or to surprise a loved one. Many of the featured items reflect the current exhibits, have a fun educational theme and have a price point that is right for everyone’s wallet.

As an added twist, anyone who brings in their child’s stocking and fills it up with items from the Gift Shop will receive 20 percent off their entire purchase. Stockings are available for sale at the museum as well.

Witulski also hope the public will consider giving a museum membership as a holiday gift.

“When you give a museum membership, you give an opportunity for someone to visit the Besser Museum Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. for a full year, as many times as they want, including all of the museum festivals, at no cost to them. Your loved one can experience art, science, and history, digging in the fossil park, attending special educational programs, and strolling through exhibit galleries.”

For more information about memberships, the Season of Light or the Nov. 9 opening reception, call the museum at 356-2202.