Artworks featured in Gallery of Echoes include George Bellows’s Summer Night, Riverside Drive, 1909, oil on canvas, Columbus Museum of Art: bequest of Frederick W. Schumacher




If Emerson, Lake & Palmer can do it, why not Shadowbox Live?

 Forty-some years ago, Stev Guyer listened to a borrowed copy of the band’s Pictures at an Exhibition. The 1971 album was an adaptation of a classical suite by Russia’s Modest Mussorgsky that depicts a visit to an art show.

 “It was actually the first full album by Emerson, Lake & Palmer that I ever listened to,” said Guyer, Shadowbox’s executive producer.

 Since then, Guyer has never forgotten how impressed he was by the work, not only because the rock group had ventured into orchestral music but because each of its 10 sections was an interpretation of a work of art.

 “The idea that they were taking pieces of art and conceiving of them sonically was incredibly interesting,” he said.

 Now, with help from the Columbus Museum of Art, Shadowbox plans to do something very similar. From tonight through Sunday, Guyer’s troupe will present Gallery of Echoes, a suite of 21 multimedia pieces inspired by artworks from the museum’s permanent collection.

 The show actually goes Mussorgsky one better. As Guyer learned some time after first hearing Pictures at an Exhibition, the Russian based his music on artworks that existed only in his head. Shadowbox, in contrast, is taking its inspiration from 21 real-life works.

 Nancy Turner, the museum’s director of community relations, said Shadowbox representatives chose the pieces after she and chief curator Dominique H. Vasseur led them on a tour of the museum.  “They came back with a long list,” she said. “Probably 60 works of art.”

 They then whittled the list down, though not nearly as much as they’d expected.

Turner said the original plan was to feature eight or nine pieces of art in the show. “They were so excited, they ended up with 21,” she said.

 Guyer explained that each of the show’s segments will run about four minutes and include live, original music and video projected on a 27-foot-wide screen.

Some will also include lyrics, narration and dance. The purpose is not simply to interpret the artworks but to increase viewers’ appreciation and understanding of them.

 Guyer said the educational component was partly inspired by the original museum tour, during which curator Vasseur provided the Shadowboxers with a wealth of information.

 “Dominique just seemed to know everything there was to know about the work we were looking at,” Guyer recalled. “His ability to look at a piece of art and tell us something about it that instantly made that piece 10 times more interesting than it was visually was extraordinary.”

 “So (the show) isn’t just art, it’s a little bit of information about the pieces to help people appreciate them a little more fully.”

 Stacie Boord, Shadowbox’s director of community relations and education, said she’s been working to ensure that local schoolchildren benefit from this learning opportunity. Thanks to a grant from PNC Arts Alive, students from several schools will see the show for free.

 In addition, Boord will pay a visit to Eastmoor Academy to give its students a preview of the show before they see it.

 “And then I’ll go back afterward and I’m going to challenge them,” she said. “I’ll give them a piece of art and a piece of music, and they can either find a piece of music they think supports the piece of art and why, or vice versa: They can listen to a piece of music and try to find an image that they think coordinates with that.”

 “It should be fun,” Boord said.

 Nannette V. Maciejunes, the CMA’s executive director, said collaborations with other arts groups are nothing new for the museum. Still, she added, “This has really been one of the more exciting collaborations I have ever been involved in because of this idea of merging the visual arts with the performing arts.”

 Both Maciejunes and Turner pointed to Shadowbox’s take on King Lake, California, an oil painting by Albert Bierstadt, as one part of the show they’ve found particularly memorable. Turner said the corresponding video images make viewers feel like they’re in the middle of the 1870s landscape.

 “What was amazing was they have a software program where they took the painting apart, essentially, and put it in different planes, so the foreground is in one plane, the middle ground in another, the background in another,” she said. “You’re watching it, and all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Wait, how did I get in there?’”

 Turner also mentioned Ohio Penitentiary, Death Row, a photographic collage by Masumi Hayashi that was shot before the historic prison was torn down.

 “It is so moving, and the music is incredibly haunting,” she said.

 Other featured artists range from European masters Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet to Columbus folk artist Elijah Pierce. Featured media include paintings, photographs and sculptures representing a variety of styles and eras.

 Shadowbox typically has multiple shows going on during any given week, but Boord pointed out that the troupe is putting its other productions on hold to make room for the ambitious Gallery of Echoes.

 “This is the first time we’ve ever done that,” she said. “This is something we feel very strongly about, and we want to make sure that we give as many opportunities (as possible) for the community to come out and experience it.”

 Gallery of Echoes will be presented Thursday through Sunday (May 1-4) at Shadowbox Live, 503 S. Front St. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $50 for opening night, $25-$40 other performances ($20-$35 for students, seniors, military personnel and CMA members). 614-416-7625 or

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