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The Toy Museum

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     For almost twenty years, local multi-faceted artist Mary Scholl has been running her Toy Museum in a birch grove overlooking the Harbor near Whiskey Point, a continuation and expansion of the store she had owned on Chicago's North Halstead Street before coming to Beaver Island.  Her building, which she designed (as she did her amazing home behind the Museum), is packed to the rafters with an immense number of items for children and collectors alike, ranging from aisle after aisle of candy jars, Bathing Beauty postcards from 1905, rubber figures, stencils, Star Wars cards, books of paper dolls, polished stones, Disney figures, cowboys, and trolls -- to over fifty valuable and even priceless metal cars and trucks from the 20's and 30's fastened to the roofboards. One of the crossbeams overhead supports a variety of tin robots, and there are two large three-masted schooners sailing through the cathedral space above.

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     She also stocks a variety of arts and crafts: rings, scents, oils, votive candles, and jewelry. There is an art alcove with paintings by a number of artists -- such as Shirley Gladish, former art teacher at the Beaver Island school.  Out back is her sculpture garden, containing heads, animals, children, dinosaurs, insects, and the Buddha, sitting in three plots under her bounteous cherry trees, which are protected from the ravages of birds by an English mulberry bush. (Mary's Island-gathered collections of such plants as roses and hen-and-chicks are legendary.)
     In the summertime, the Toy Museum is packed with throngs of customers pouring over the myriad displays. Mary is energized by the palpable sense of discovery that emanates from her patrons, as evidenced by the frequent peals of hearty laughter that ring out to reverberate through the room, affirming her zest for life. But the most amazing aspect of her enterprise is that besides being a happily-besieged shopkeeper, Mary is a major American artist as well, a kind of primitive multi-media expressionist with an unfailing sense of form, color, and balance. The art alcove contains the few watercolors still unsold, of the hundred she created during last winter, and cards and prints of some of the originals from this past season and before.  She produces these color prints in runs of a hundred or two, which usually are quickly sold out.  That's okay with her; new images are bursting out at such a constant rate that she prefers to cut herself free from concerns over or bother about the details of past work.
     The only shame is that as she moves along, exuberantly, finding only the best in each new experience, reshaping everything she touches to suit her exquisite eye, a team of videographers is not following her to document each surprising nuance in this creative, unique, optimistic, and wonderful life.

Mary Rose's work displayed at MainFrameGallery

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