'Mouse House Party' Exhibition Lets More Than 150 Cleveland Artists Explore the Emotional Toll of the Pandemic

click to enlarge Mouse House Party works - Courtesy Liz Maugans
Courtesy Liz Maugans
Mouse House Party works

'Mouse House Party,' a new exhibition from more than 150 artists who all used the same mouse-hole-shaped template to create works that serve as visual responses to the emotional toll of the pandemic, opens with a preview this Thursday evening and a grand opening on Friday at Current Cleveland.

The exhibition was made possible through a partnership between Liz Maugans and The Akron Art Museum and will be on view through Sept. 30.

The idea was conceived during the height of the pandemic and came out of a commission for Liz Maugan’s work slated for the lobby space at the Akron Art Museum. That show got pushed back and delayed due to the pandemic, but the Mouse House idea was born.

“For this project, we reached out to Liz Maugans, who is a convener of people. She expressed a desire to create a platform for radical healing after the pandemic," said Seema Rao, the art museum's deputy director.

“This concept offers a space for creatives to collectively celebrate their own emergent perseverance, revitalization and reinvigoration perhaps honoring those who have struggled and emerged with renewed strength and in this time that has been filled, and continues to be challenging to so many of us,” said Maugans.

Fans of Maugan's work might notice that mouse holes have popped up before as portals to somewhere else as perhaps an escape route or and entrance way, maybe both, into the psyche of the artist and as a way to immerse and emerge all at once.

“I have been using this arch form in my work for several years,” said Maugans. “It is a good shape-shifting simple form that I attach to a sunrise/set, an arch or portal of entry, a rainbow, a mountain, a gravestone, and in this case a mouse hole. I think it is a metaphor here for us questioning our mortality in these trying times. A House Party seemed appropriate as a counter narrative, since we are all getting out from dark confining spaces and connecting.”

“The varied perspectives and range of media will present a truly inclusive and expansive exhibition, engaging audiences with the wide spectrum of ideas present in this region with the aim to connect and celebrate our collective energies,” said Britney Kuehm, Co-Founder of Current Cleveland. “Maugans was particularly well suited to spearhead this collective venture. Her past work lies at the intersection of contemplative practice and civic engagement, particularly in how artists can engage and connect collectively. Maugans continues to explore communion in public life with communities and organizations with a more-the-merrier-mantra.”

Maugans created an open call for artists with the prompt, “Fill the Hole.” The open call enticed artists to fill this mouse hole-shaped frame with their work expressing something about filling the emotional holes felt during the pandemic and their emergence from it.

Amy Morgenstern, a 3rd grade teacher in Elyria who is a jewelry metals artist, replicated a mouse-sized version of a blanket that she crocheted for her grandson during the pandemic.

Gina Washington created one that is called, “Home of our Hearts.”

She wrote: “This year has been madness and joy. Filling one hole was challenging. However, I gathered images, snipped, and held to my promise that less is more as a song came through in my head. I have a wealth of music that pulls me through any and everything. The Psychedelic Furs are the inspiration for the piece. There is truth in the innocence of these words and memory of a year, a life past that changed you, changed me:

Heaven is the home of our hearts and
heaven won’t tear you apart
yeah heaven is the home of our hearts
-From the song, “Heaven” by The Psychic Furs

“Artists lost shows, couldn’t schedule shows, they lost other creative income as arts and cultural institutions were closed. Even in the re-opening many were furloughed,” said Maugans. “I believe many artists felt creatively fatigued. I think this Mouse House Party, on a very small level just made people look forward to something and feel a part of a larger fun, even silly moment…I hope artists sell their works and make some extra money! I hope other people meet artists whose works they like-maybe collaborate on something. I really like that an opportunity that came my way- becomes a moment for others to bounce off one another. I hope we can have more parties like this that are fun and interactive.”
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