This essay was written by Kathrine Schlageck, Senior Educator at the Beach Museum of Art. Schlageck annually curates the summer exhibition presented in collaboration with the Kansas Library Association and the Manhattan Public Library summer reading programs. This exhibition will be on display at the Beach Museum of Art June 2 – July 26, 2015.
The stories of heroes have inspired humankind for centuries. Explore the myths, legends, fairy tales and true stories of heroes and heroines as you journey to find a personal answer to the question, “What is a hero?”
The dictionary defines a hero as a person of courage and ability, admired for his/her brave deeds and noble qualities. These qualities include self-sacrifice, compassion, honor, and fortitude. The stories of heroes and heroines remind us that amazing things are possible if we persevere through obstacles, draw on our strength of character, and work with others. Although often the stuff of myths and legends, several of the works also convey that real heroes are regular humans who have acted with courage and goodness.
Joseph Campbell outlines the journey of a hero, a universal motif of transformation and adventure in cultures worldwide, in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The hero or heroine begins in the ordinary world and is called to adventure. Often he/she first refuses the call out of fear, but with the help of a mentor and/or special gifts, crosses the threshold to the adventure. The hero/heroine discovers enemies and allies and passes test before going through a major challenge and receiving the reward. Finally, there is a journey home, with a final test in which the hero/heroine is transformed and then returns to change the world or solve the problem which started the journey. The story of Theseus slaying the Minotaur is a perfect example and is represented in the exhibition with a print by Chris Ritter.
This exhibition has been co-curated by Manhattan High School sophomore Emma Kellogg. Emma is a graduate of the museum’s ARTSmart program. She began volunteering as classroom assistant in the Education Department during the summer of 2014. Emma has continued to help with classes and work on “The Hero’s Journey” after school.
To find information on additional exhibitions or programs at the Beach, please check our website.