October programming begins at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures


A still from the film "Mister Lonely," which focuses on people who dress up every day as celebrities.The film will screen at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures tonight and will be followed by a corresponding costume party. Courtesy Photo

The Mathers Museum of World Cultures is starting October with a variety of festive programs geared toward both students and the Bloomington community.

One of these is the Mathers After Hours “Mister Lonely” Costume Party, taking place at 7 p.m. today.

The party invites attendees to dress up in the costume of their choice and enjoy the screening of the film, chosen by Pravina Shukla, associate professor of folklore at IU.

Sarah Hatcher, head of programs and education for the Mathers, said the film covers a topic that ties into Themester: Beauty and also relates to one of the museum’s current exhibitions, “Costume: Beauty, Meaning, and Identity in Dress,” also curated by Shukla.

“I wasn’t familiar with films that dealt with living your life in costume, and this is what she recommended,” Hatcher said. “This looks like something quirky and fun — a good way to connect between Themester and First Thursday.”

This event will be taking place following this month’s First Thursdays Festival tonight, thrown by the Eskenazi Museum of Art and including a variety of other art and cultural institutions on campus, such as the African American Dance Company and IU Opera Theater.

The film “Mister Lonely” follows characters who dress up as popular figures, such as Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin, in their daily lives.

The museum’s current costume-based exhibition takes the idea of costume in society and explores the transformative nature of costume.

Hatcher said she hopes this event will allow students in attendance to express their silliness and 

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what kind of costumes people come up with and if they let out their inner child,” Hatcher said. “Sometimes college kids can be reluctant to bust out the construction paper and glue. It will be interesting to see whether or not people allow themselves to do that.”

As part of the First Thursdays Festival itself, the Mathers will have a limestone carving demonstration in the Showalter Plaza starting at 5 p.m. The 10th Annual Day of the Dead Altar will also open this Friday.

The altar will be available for viewing and contribution during regular museum hours.

The altar was created at the now-closed Wandering Turtle Art Gallery in 2006 and moved to the Mathers after the gallery closed, according to Michael Redman, one of the curators.

Redman said the most touching part of taking down and putting up the altar each year is the connection to the many participants via the items they leave and the handwritten letters they write, which he catalogues each year after the altar goes down.

“Some of them are really touching and sad, and some are more joyous,” Redman said. “Every year, some grade school classes come, so kids leave notes. Some of those are especially touching, because it’s preteen kids talking to their grandparents or whoever has died.”

Redman said each year the altar grows. Some of the items are as simple as a deck of cards, candy or an empty bottle of tequila or indicators of who the lost person was.

“I have some offerings there, for my parents and grandparents and my cat, it means that, to me personally, that I have some involvement with it,” Redman said. “Probably more what it means to me is that it’s a community thing, it’s available there for a month for anyone who wants to leave things. Sometimes, people run into people they know there and have conversations about people who died.”

The most important aspect of the altar is the idea that anyone, no matter what their cultural or religious background, can leave something at the community altar, which brings together people from all walks of life to participate in a tradition which is rooted in Mexican culture, Redman said.

The larger goal of such events and exhibitions is to allow those who may not have an explicit reason to visit the museum an opportunity to see what the Mathers has to offer, Hatcher said.

“What I want is for every IU student to walk through our door at least once during their academic career,” Hatcher said. “Hopefully, the events we have this week and through the rest of the month are enticements for people to come and discover this hidden treasure.”

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